Beauty Means Business

Gone are the days when owners might just throw an assortment of cardio equipment, some hand weights and a radio into a brightly lit room and call it a gym. These days we have so much information and research about how design elements can contribute to the success of a gym or PT studio. The good news is, there are now plenty of companies that can even do it for you.

When a member walks into your gym, much of the impact of how it looks and feels is subtle, occurring on an unconscious level. They may not really notice the colour scheme or the mood lighting; they may not even notice the smell of the cycle room, or the type of music that’s playing in the background. But for the club owner, these elements – and many more – have most likely all been extensively thought out – or at least, they should have been.

Rudy Fabiano is an arcitecht based in the USA, whose company – Fabiano Designs ( – works on projects such as high-end restaurant and hotel fit outs; day spas and fitness centres.

When asked about the future of club design, Rudy zeroed in on the main training area. ‘The fitness floor, the sanctuary of our clubs, is evolving. Obviously new programming such as functional training is growing in popularity and, as such, is taking up more space. But providing for a need for more open space for diverse programming and activities on the workout floor is a trend that is going to continue. Besides the programming, I think the most interesting evolution will be that these areas are becoming better designed. Many times we see that workout floors are leftover space from the built-up areas such as locker rooms, offices, and group fitness. We haven’t yet seen a high level of design considered in terms of lighting, aesthetics, and materials dedicated purely to the workout space. Think about the workout floor as the ‘great hall’ – the centre of activities – and design accordingly.’

Rudy suggests these top five design tips for your fitness club or PT studio.

1. Integrate:
‘To achieve success, design alone is not the answer; it is the integration of the emotional, physical, and social components within the design that support a brand culture that will make for a great member experience.’

2. Use all of the senses:
‘The mistake that many people make is thinking that design is just about the visuals. Design is about creating a distinct and appropriate member experience. Obviously, sound and music has a profound impact on how we feel within a space. Similarly the same goes for smell, if a club doesn’t smell fresh and clean, all the beautiful materials in the world will not sway you to enter that locker room.’

3. Use quality materials:
‘I see a lot of people putting resources in the lobbies but by the time I get into the group exercise studio or the free weights area, the quality of design and materials drops off substantially. It is very important to have a consistent quality throughout the club from the main entrance to the back trainer’s room; essentially anywhere a member will access.’ As well as this, other problems can arise from ‘using inappropriate materials not suitable for the heavy usage of a fitness environment, which end up being a huge waste of money and resources.’

4. See every space as unique:
Look at your project individually. ‘What are the specific needs, consumer base, and natural resources? Every space, building, or land has something unique to offer and it’s important to respect and honour the value that the individual space can bring to a project.’

5. Remember the basics:
‘We continually try to learn from other great spaces and industries; the hospitality, restaurant, and retail industries spend an enormous amount of resources to understand how design affects behaviour and purchasing, and the overall customer experience. So there are many cues that we can learn from their initiatives; however, at the end of the day if you don’t understand fitness and the psychology of reducing intimidation you’re not going to design a great club.’

So who got it right? Check out these clubs for some inspiration:

Gold’s Gym:
Multiple sites across the USA.Having worked with many gyms in the Gold’s Gym chain, Fabiano designed clubs have been honoured with awards (including Best Gym of the Year) at the Gold’s Gym awards for over 15 years and have received more than 46 nominations and awards for their designs.

David Barton Gyms:
New York, Miami, Chicago and Seattle USA. Feeling more like an exclusive nightclub than a workout space, these clubs are where the cool kids come to sweat it out. Think disco balls, valet parking and live DJs.

Gold’s Gym photos © Fabiano Designs

Article written by Lee Price for What’s New In Fitness Magazine – Autumn 2013 edition.

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