Design Study: Applying Product Design to Gym Space

Design case-study for redesigning a CrossFit box

Context

I was 3 months into working out at a CrossFit box 🏋️ and the box owner started talking to me about re-designing the box space for various reasons. He was adamant that it needed to be done by the end of the year (Christmas 🎅). Before starting the work, we (I+Owner) decided to talk to the box members about what they feel about the concept of redesigning the entire box. The box had a few hundred members at that time and I wanted to understand from their perspective since they will be using the space afterwards.

The box space looked like this before the redesign.

The starting point of how space looked like


User Interview Questions

Following were the questions asked to the box members:

  1. How long have you been coming to the box?

  2. After your workout session, how do you feel about the box-space? Is it a positive or a negative feeling?

  3. What do you think about the current logo design? Can you relate to the logo? Do you think it needs an overhauling?

  4. If we were to redo the entire box-space, how would you like to change it? Is there something that you would like to see integrated into the box-space?

  5. Which sports brand do they follow? Which of them do they admire?


Research Findings

Apart from these, the owners generally were talking to the members a lot and they shared a collection of findings that might be useful while thinking about the redesign.

  1. 🧜 Female athletes are generally self-doubting themselves. If there can be some female-centric quotes in certain pockets then that would boost morale.

  2. Members are not exposed to the famous CrossFit athletes’ names. Printing their names and pictures won’t be very useful.

  3. 89% of members are working professionals 👨‍🦱👩‍🦰, while the remaining are students. Unlike students, 89% are driven by the fact that they can get fit by attending workout sessions. They have no desire to become world-class athletes.

  4. Members aren’t cognizant of basic etiquettes towards using barbells/equipment. They had to be repeatedly told to understand how to handle bumper plates and barbells carefully (so that they don’t damage equipment and harm themselves).

  5. Some members are often late ⌚ to the box.

  6. Some members indulge in self-talks and gossips during WOD (Workout of the Day) explanation/demo and workout.

  7. Hero WODs (workouts named after military servicemen) are a common thing among CrossFitters, new members need to learn about them and the CrossFit vocabulary to not get lost.

  8. Most members are looking to lose weight/fat. CrossFit provides a general guideline to do so. It can be tried to make it more accessible to everyone through’ graphics.

Constraints

Before starting the project, there were a set of constraints I was made aware of. The project had to be worked taking into these constraints.

  1. The budget for printing is limited since it was coming directly from the owner’s pocket. Fancy 3M print materials won’t be possible to procure.

  2. There are moulds/fungus on walls in some parts of the box. It is highly unlikely to fix it permanently (because of the water seepage). It is important to cover them with contextual graphics.

  3. Some walls get heavily used/scratched during workout movements like handstand pushups. These walls need to have strong print material to support rough usage.

Interview Findings

  1. 30% of the members were 6+ months old. 70% of the members were new i.e., 1–2 months.

  2. More than 50% of the members lie within an age bracket of 24 to 28yrs old. This will mean that the designs have to appeal to this audience group.

  3. 98% felt positive after the workout 💪.

  4. 80% felt like the box needed some redoing for the build quality of the walls.

  5. 90% had no opinion about graphic/redesign of the box. But they didn’t negate the idea of having it.

  6. 100% of members loved the current logo design and doesn’t want it to change.

  7. 80% of the members don’t personally relate to the logo but they felt it looked cool and gives the feeling of strength when they look at it.

  8. Nike was the most loved brand by 70% of the members. 25% liked Reebok. 5% liked other brands (like Sketchers, Asics). I later used this brand insight as a direction to drive my design.

Design Brief

Based upon the interview insights, constraints and how members generally behave in the box, we decided to come up with designs that “energize their workouts and give them a reason to return for the next session”.

Energize everyday WODs and improve the look & feel to support members as well the box holistically.

Getting Started

To get started, I took pictures of each column, wall and washroom corners from every angle. I also simultaneously asked the owner to help me get the box measurements for each wall.

This got me to a point where I could finally start laying designs in ✏️ paper sketches and know exactly the aspect ratio/shape of each wall.

During one of the CrossFit Games Open Workout. This shot shows the actual condition of the walls and the level of roughness that the box had to go through in a short duration after opening just 7–8 months ago.


Measurements

Wall Measurements

In true startup sense, measurements were recorded wall by wall on paper. To keep the file size small I just converted millimetres to pixels @ 300DPIs.

Logo Design

Based on the research and user interviews, there were multiple reasons why changing the logo design didn’t make sense.

  1. 100% of members loved the current logo design and doesn’t want it to change.

  2. In terms of the competitors in the city, the logo was very unique and easily stood out from others.

  3. The logo doubled as a mascot.

  4. Because of the edgy and sharp design, there was a nice sporty feel to it. We decided to explore this direction/thought process and see far it can go.

Colour Palette

The original colour palette was simple and just consisted of dark grey, black and white. I wanted to retain the simplicity, but I wanted to expand it to add more complementary shades. Going into this phase I knew that the colours also need to complement the Reebok logo since they are one of the major box sponsorers.

I added a few retro colour shades that go well with red. Since a good number of females came to the box, I added an affordance to have neighbouring shades of red and some of the pink.


Mascot Gonzo

- 100% of members loved the current logo design and doesn’t want it to change. 
- 80% of the members don’t personally relate to the logo but they felt it looked cool and gives the feeling of strength when they look at it.
 — From Interview Findings

BACK-TO-BASICS (BTB) named their mascot as Gonzo. To start with, I decided to play around with the original mascot a lot. We wanted to keep the original shape and form ‘mostly’ intact but incorporate shading and other funny edits. A mascot is always ideal for making a brand more interactive.

Batman, Superman, Ironman & Wonder Woman versions

As you can see I took the liberty to play with it a little too much 😅. In the end, members, as well as coaches, loved some of them. Especially the BatZo and moustached version of Gonzo. I will be incorporating some of them in artworks if context suits well.


Project RED

I started by introducing pockets of red in certain places. After discussing some ideas around it, we decided to experiment with a colour shaded version of Gonzo.

Photogenic Wallball Shots

One of the walls was regularly used for wallball shots and is also the most visible wall from outside of the gym’s transparent glass door. We wanted to design something that would convert this to a photo-wall as well as solve the dual purpose of being a comfortable place to practice wall-balls.

I designed it in such a way that the wall contained a mascot-logo on a bright reddish-pink backdrop. The design was made bottom-heavy because there was a need to leave out some top-space for wall-balls. To keep the graphic clean, we decided to use a removable warning tape for wallball markings.

CrossFit Nutrition

Most members are looking to lose weight/fat. CrossFit provides a general guideline to do so. It can be tried to make it more accessible to everyone through’ graphics.
— From Research Findings

As a general guide, the CrossFit website recommends that athletes “eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar” and “keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.” We wanted to highlight this.

Etiquettes

Nike was the most loved brand by 70% of the members. 25% liked Reebok. 5% liked other brands (like Sketchers, Asics). I later used this brand insight as a direction to drive my design.
 — From Interview Findings

I used fonts from some of the most famous sports brands. The interview finding above helped me decide on the direction.

Initially, wall paint was scraped off and there were visible lines of moulds in certain corners

- Members aren’t cognizant of basic etiquettes towards using barbells/equipment. They had to be repeatedly told to understand how to handle bumper plates and barbells carefully (so that they don’t damage equipment and harm themselves).
- Some members are often late ⌚ to the box.
- Some members indulge in self-talks and gossips during WOD (Workout of the Day) explanation/demo and workout.
— From Research Findings

In every class, members faced a wall that had a metal shutter in the middle and two white patches of wall remaining. As the number of etiquettes points increased, I decided to use those wall patches to deliver the message. It adequately fitted the purpose because of the fact that members ‘have’ to read the message written on them no matter what.

Hero WODs

Hero WODs (workouts named after military servicemen) are a common thing among CrossFitters, new members need to learn about them and the CrossFit vocabulary to not get lost.
 — Research Findings

Female Hero WODs are the toughest in CrossFit and they come up frequently as Open workouts or even during the Games. There were ample reasons to have them on one of the walls. This wall also helped members perform a random WOD just in case they want to do a different workout than the one prescribed for a class session.

Washrooms

Both male and female washrooms had its own set of problems. We decided to solve both differently. Thankfully we had the time to validate design sketches with the members to get to the right solution.

Male Washroom

Gonzo Poster Design


The main wall that is used for partitioning the basins and locker area was getting fungus/moulds. It was first covered with 3M boards and then pasted vinyl graphics over it. For the graphic, I decided to go with epic quotes borrowed from famous movies that are combined with retro-looking mascot versions.

All of us in India grew up with movie posters stuck on walls for public attraction. We decided to give that scrappy, shuffled look a try. The posters and the location completely changed the vibe of the washroom.

Reference Stock Image

Lockers

The washroom had 15 lockers and 2 were used for hand & bath towels. Members could never seem to remember which two those were or which of the two consisted of what. Based on feedback and shadowing, I understood that members coming to the gym need more than just lockers. They needed some kind of visual feedback to make their lives easier.

Female Washrooms

🧜 Female athletes are generally self-doubting themselves. If there can be some female-centric quotes in certain pockets then that would boost morale.
 — Research Findings

Architecture and utilities wise, both washrooms were the same. We changed the approach of creatives a little bit but followed the same pattern/DNA for the female washroom.

Need More Quotes

One of the walls got left out and we had to cover it with ‘something’. This almost felt like a hammer and nail problem. For a problem solver, we decided to find a workout friendly quote 😆.

End Result

The final box space came out to be quite nice. Everyone who skipped classes for a few days or weeks was pleasantly surprised when they came in. The colour combination added a flare to the rugged-looking box which complimented the colourful sports attire that members wore.

Here are some images with members enjoying a nice 💦 sweat.

One of the main walls that had a big BACK-TO-BASICS logo was sponsored by Reebok and so the graphic also came from them. It showed a few athletes having a nice time working out in Reebok attire. The red lava pillars peeked out from behind the dark grey graphic 😂 .

In the end, the experience was a sweet and satisfying one. I loved every workout session that I got to attend post the redesign. And cherish every moment of members appreciating the box as days passed by. I am particularly proud of the coloured retro-looking version of the Gonzo and Bat-zo poster set.


Extra: Apart from the work shown above, there is a plethora of work that never saw the light of day. One among them was where I decided to channelize my inner Japanese spirit in Gonzo and make him a Calligraphy avatar of himself.

Anyways, you can still enjoy the artwork here.

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