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Lionel Wong: "Seek purpose over passion"

Intensive interview with Lionel (PhD Researcher & Educator & Interactive Artist &
Co-founder & Interactive Textiles Designer & NFT Contact Creator)


Editor: Hoi Ying Ava LEUNG, 

#Keywords: fashion, biometric, generative, interactive,  co-design, Interactive art, Textiles design, Baëlf ,3D printing, NFT, Digital art

We are so lucky to have Lionel for sharing his experiences as a PhD Researcher & Educator & Interactive Artist & Co-founder & Interactive Textiles Design. If you wish to become one of the above identities, you have to read this article. You will get to know more about the above identity and some suggestions and tips from Lionel. The following article will be divided into several parts. 


Lionel Wong is a Singaporean presently pursuing his doctoral degree at the Hong Kong Polytechnic School of Design, for which he received the prestigious Hong Kong PhD Fellowship in 2020. He had also been awarded the Bright Future Charitable Foundation Design Scholarship for his Masters studies in Interaction Design from Hong Kong PolyU in 2019, of which he achieved a Distinction. Prior to that, he majored in Industrial Design from the National University of Singapore. Prior to founding Baëlf Design with his partner Jamela Law, Lionel worked at international companies such as Asus and Hasbro Inc.. He had also been an educator at institutions such as Singapore Polytechnic and Raffles Design Institute. His area of focus in teaching is the development of personal creativity and the inculcation of foundational design skills in his students. As a design executive at Baëlf Design, his responsibilities include complex 3D modelling and fabrication of prototypes. He is curious about new technological approaches to fashion and design, and is investigating various forms of additive manufacturing, the use of exotic, interactive textiles and materials, generative design and computational creativity through machine learning. The works of Baëlf Design have garnered awards internationally and have been exhibited in venues such as New York, San Francisco, Shanghai and London.

Introduction of Lionel’s project - Choreo Couture

Year of creation: 2021

Medium: Custom written Javascript code on WiFi connected laptop, Gopro camera


For the 2021 edition of deTour Design Festival held at PMQ in Hong Kong, Baëlf Design had the opportunity to conduct ‘Choreo Couture’, a workshop that provided participants a glimpse into the future of interactive digital fashion making.

ChoreoCouture - Dress 6.png
ChoreoCouture - Dress 7.png
ChoreoCouture - Motion Capture (movement as food).gif
ChoreoCouture - Colour Capture (colour as poison).gif

Not too many decades ago, the area of generative digital art was seen as mere decoration or simply flights of a mathematician’s whimsy. Today, this combination of computational capabilities with human imagination is valued not just for its aesthetics, but also its beneficial design utility. They can create works of art unparalleled with never-seen-before levels of detail, depth, and variety.

Baelf Designers Jamela and Lionel.jpg

At Baëlf Design, an art & design company Lionel co-founded with his partner Jamela Law from Hong Kong, they design Neo-Couture wearable art by allowing data and algorithms to dictate the form of our pieces. 3D printing is one of their main fabrication techniques as some of the forms have become impossible to make by hand. They play a lot with mathematical formulas that are inspired by nature. Seemingly mundane data, arrays of indecipherable numbers, and now be translated to beautiful form by manipulating them through code. Generative design and computational creativity through machine learning, paired with the use of exotic, interactive textiles and materials, give rise to aesthetic possibilities that are truly infinite and fascinating.

ChoreoCouture - Dress 10.png

Difficulties for the whole project :

  1. For the workshop, getting the written code script to work as predicted was no easy task

  2. Biometric data files can get very heavy and graphic outcomes could get choppy and affect the whole interactive experience

  3. Attendance for the workshop had exceeded our expectations

  4. Technological problem 

  5. Participants were very enthusiastic and were moving too fast for the laptop camera to process

  6. Crowd in the backdrop also resulted in unwanted noise captured from the background

  7. Time management


Challenges for using 3D print for fabrication techniques :

  1. Ways to make our 3D printed dresses comfortable to wear

  2. Affordable materials are still somewhat rigid or hard to print

  3. Flexible materials like TPU printed on desktop FFF printers is only eco-friendly if only there is a recycling facility available in your city

  4. FFF printers also have very small printing boundaries and lower print resolutions

  5. Industrial grade SLS and SLA printers allow bigger print dimensions, but they can come with astronomical prices

Facts that you have to know if you for being a PhD Researcher

What a Phd researcher usually do for his studies?

Lionel shares that his PhD is an exploration of alternative ways in which traditionally trained fashion designers can apply computational methods in their practice. Leaning on Constructive Design Research traditions, fashion designer participants will be confronted in their practice with knowledge outside their field (i.e. computational design methods). In response, through a process of priming, sensitization, and co-design, they will generate novel, alternative approaches to implement computation into their creative processes. The outcomes of his study will be the generated novel, alternative computational design methods which are aligned to the fashion design paradigms and be utilized for innovating practice and pedagogy, as well as contribute to the development of future computational design tools. 


Lionel also shared the difference between his master's and his PhD. Master’s degree is more like a knowledge input, while a PhD is more like a knowledge output. Generally, his master’s degree focused on a more micro-level construction and less cared about aesthetics. His PhD studies focus on unexplored design processes, aesthetics, and making of wearables through visual programming languages with the goal of creating fashion wearables tailored to any human body.


Tips for getting a PhD offer:

  1. Find suitable supervisors before even applying for a PhD

  2. Have a substantial network

  3. Good understanding of the Professors’ research focuses and interests

  4. Make sure your skillset is updated and relevant to support your proposed goal

  5. Upgrade yourself constantly

  6. Meet new people

  7. Engaging in the community

  8. Have an open-minded

  9. An understanding partner is an understated bliss


Reason for Lionel to choose HK for his Phd :

  1. Not a brand new environment for him, so he does not have to worry about adapting to new cultures.

  2. Attractive Fellowship Scheme funding in Hong Kong

  3. Interesting upcoming opportunities in the Greater Bay region

  4. Near the factories in Shenzhen: A boon as they prototype frequently

  5. interesting upcoming opportunities in the Greater Bay region


Hints for getting the Hong Kong PhD Fellowship:

  1. Find out the Fellowship quota and guidelines in each School/ Programme 

  2. Higher chance if your research area is novel or in an emerging field like A.I / machine learning/computation related, multi-disciplinary practices

  3. Do not be shy asking for advice

  4. Willing to share your experience and advice

  5. Find mentors who have faith in you and will write you glowing recommendation letters


Suggestions for you if you would like to study PhD:

  1. PhD life is hectic but not unexpected

  2. You are required to fend for yourself 

  3. Able to work independently most of the time

  4. Have the passion, drive, and motivation to get through 3 years of nonstop hard work

tips for phd.png

Facts that you have to know for bieng an Educator or instructor

If you wish to become an Educator/ instructor at higher institutions, especially in teaching interactive art, design, and 3D printing. You have to be prepared for facing difficulties :

  1. Since not everyone can visualize in 3D with verbal instructions, even digital natives like the millennials and Z gens. So, establishing your own unique processes requires practice and proficiency in many different software and tools. 

  2. Learning with the students is required. As Lieno shared his experience with us. Once he teaches something new, it is important for them to know making mistakes is part of the learning process.

  3. Language might be a barrier to effective communication

  4. Take Extra effort to make lesson plans inclusive and comprehensive to fit different student’s level 

Suggestions for being an instructor or educator :

  1. Patience. Since students come with different personalities, educational background and skillsets

  2. A little encouragement and guidance needed

  3. Passion. Since Institutional bureaucracy can be draining, you will need to bring excitement and novelty to everyday mundane

  4. Purpose. Since the job is about nurturing the next generation of global citizen, one needs to lead by example and be a better human

  5. Stay humble and curious

suggestion for instructor.png

Facts that you have to know for being interactive artists 

  1. Start by studying mechanisms / linkages

  2. Making a system with your hands

  3. Incorporating some digital elements

  4. Play with basics of coding

  5. Make good use of internet resources 

  6. Collaborate with like-minded friends

  7. Have fun

  8. Be thoughtful and reflective

fact for being artists.png

About NFT (Vogue Singapore’s NFT covers)

The production process for creating an NFT cover :

  1. Like any design consultation with clients, there is a need for constant dialogue and discussion with stakeholders like the VOGUE representatives and Chad Knight. 

  2. Proficiency in 3D software such as Rhinoceros3D and Cinema4D would be very helpful.


Suggestion for the artist to publish their work as an NFT :

Make sure you already have a fanbase before selling NFTs. Mining fees can add up significantly if your works do not sell. If not, work with a notable organization and have them represent you and help promote your works.


Personal view for Lionel toward NFT in art markets:

NFTs might be bad for the environment. This is true to a certain extent, due to the amount of energy spent on traditional minting. However, there are recent advances in cryptocurrency technology that allow their processes to be less energy intensive. And we believe that the technology will get greener as time goes by.what matters is inculcating our awareness of our personal environmental footprint, creating works of value which are not inspired by greed, and each doing our part to improve our planet one step at a time. NFTs are still very early in its development, but I do see potential. NFTs are not for everyone. Many collectors still prefer tangible artworks that change overtime/ can be viewed in 3D physically/come with traces of imperfection. Do works that you relate to best and do not follow trends blindly.

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