The offices of the Gestalten Press are housed on the fifth floor of an unassuming building in Berlin-Kreuzberg. To get to the office, you take an elevator that opens straight onto a vast office space in which silence and concentration reign. It’s almost disappointing until you remember that publishing books is, after all, hardly noisy work. Sven Ehmann is to be found sitting between two colleagues, typical of a workspace in which teamwork on projects is integral to the whole process.
What’s your role at Gestalten?
It says Creative Director on my business card. There’s a widespread idea that that means I tell our formatters and designers what colours and fonts to use; in actual fact, I don’t have anything to with those matters. I’m much more responsible for, and involved in, the creative structure of our program. My role is a conceptual one, which is, really, the core of everything I do here. I collect information, fill in the missing pieces and find an interesting way to present that information.
Where does the inspiration to take on new subjects come from?
I enjoy working with experts in a certain field and making use of their extensive knowledge of a particular subject. I try to keep my own research as open-ended as possible, however. It’s about finding new ideas and subjects, getting a feel for them, for what would work. It’s especially exciting when you begin to notice how to fields that, on first inspection, have very little in common with each other in fact display the same tendencies; that’s when compilation becomes possible and you can start bringing different strands together in an unexpected, engaging manner. We define our core concept as “exploring visual culture,” which is something we try and do in a lively and vivacious way. Inspiration is everywhere. It’s in the places you’d expect to find it – concerts, exhibitions and so on; but it also comes from unexpected sources, which is when it’s most exciting. You need to have some experience and a feel for it.
The Gestalten Space is a good concept. Are there plans to export it?
The Space has been going for a little more than a year now and we’re still incredibly enthusiastic about the project. Sure, we a have a ton of ideas and it’d be great to have a Gestalten Space in every big city. But we don’t have any concrete plans at the moment that’d take us to New York, Buenos Aires, Tokyo or London. We’ll have to wait and see how that develops in the future. The Gestalten Space in Berlin is definitely a space that makes the Press more directly experienceable, somewhere you come into direct contact with the world we explore in our books.
Is there a subject you find particularly engaging, something you’d like to publish a book on?
I’m fascinated at the moment by graphs, by the visual presentation of data. We’ve already published two books on the subject, Informotion and Visual Storytelling, which were good supplements to the existing literature. Graphs are all about the way in which we handle information, the way in which we disseminate it and pass it on without relying on continuous text and a few photographs to transport the message. More attention is paid now to visual representations of data and information than previously, giving rise to the realization of new means of transferring knowledge in visually interesting and discerning ways. It’s a subject that Gestalten will certainly engage with more in the future.
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I get on the train after talking to Sven Ehmann and head towards the Gestalten Space to spend some time flicking through the books, wonder at the carefully selected trinkets, have a quick peek at the current exhibition and enjoy the atmosphere. It is, all in all, much more than a simple bookshop.