Contemporary Design

The Asymptotes by Ena Naito

Book-writing as Design: Exploration of a hydro-logic process towards a multimodal creative nonfiction
Two blue-greenish painted fish tails swimming to the right off the page
Photo by Ena Naito


To think hydro-logically is to acknowledge that we are all bodies of water. We carry nutrients and toxins; leak and absorb; seek confluence. Each of us, we carry stories of other bodies of water. Our permeable bodies are inextricably caught up in the currents of other bodies, and therefore are never fully able to control the elements that course through us.

Taking a cue from feminist new materialism, this thesis seeks to fill the gap between discourse and practice by exploring how the figuration of the hydro-logic can shift from a conceptual way of thinking into a way of creative doing. The shift is specifically examined through the practice of experimental book-writing, enacted as a highly reflective and reflexive form of research. Interweaving theory, practice and poesis, this thesis investigates an emerging site of how a book performs research, while simultaneously contributing to the wider scholarship situated around practice-based design research. This involves locating possible methodologies and creative modes of documentation and reflection, as well as identifying, analysing and evaluating key qualities and implications of the hydro-logic process.

This quest unfolds in several fluidified phases, becoming more purposeful as it builds towards a creation of a multimodal creative nonfiction book titled, The Asymptotes. Each phase of the journey
is informed by the hydro-logic – from literature research, gathering of materials through oral storytelling, and experimental writing, to the production of the artefact and its interpersonal evaluation. Reciprocally, the understanding of the hydro-logic is continually developed in response to the empirical, theoretical and reflective findings. Throughout such hydro-logical process, experimental writing becomes both a method of research inquiry and a research artefact, whose final form as a multimodal book embodies the traces, intensities, and qualities of the process.

This study proposes a design approach that resists the linearity of traditional research methods and academic obsession with categorisation. To practice hydro-logically is to embody the multi-layered and living nature of a creative practice, with critical attention to the eroding, transporting, depositing, and cross-fertilisation of various forms of knowledge. The key findings from this research are used to offer an emerging approach for the hydro-logical process, as well as to engender productive methods for mapping-in-movement to navigate through induced uncertainties. In so doing, this work demonstrates how a fluidly leaking, absorbing, and seething form of research can be performed whilst keeping sight of the academic and creative research focus.

A person holding The Asymptotes book in their lap and reading a page with a dark painted background and white text over it
Photo by Ena Naito
The Asymptotes book cover - collage like
Photo by Yujie Zhou
Someone's hands listing through The Asymptotes

Photo by Ena Naito

The Asymptotes book opened on a page with a dark red and blue painted background and text over it
Photo by Ena Naito
The Asymptotes book opened on a white page with black and white pen illustrations of a landscape on the left and well on the right

Photo by Ena Naito


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