Guest editorial: Use color, layout to benefit fitness business

Color plays an important role in our lives, as does the way pieces in a space are laid out. Guest writer Del Reanne Lucas suggests business people pay more attention to these things.

By Del Reanne Lucas

Color plays an important role in many aspects of our lives. Color expert Catherine Fishel says, "Color affects consumers even more than price - it even exceeds design." The use or misuse of color does affect behavior, mood and even health! As more is learned, everyone from physicians to shoe retailers to fast food merchandisers is discovering that color can be used to steer an audience's reaction.

The fitness industry should be no different. In fact, the importance may even be heightened - after all, most people join a club for an overall sense of wellness. Given this fact, creating an atmosphere that will be attractive to individuals seeking this sense of wellness should be of paramount importance to facility owners and operators.

What colors do we see in most clubs across the country? Nothing too stimulating or inviting: Gray carpet, white walls, white equipment with black upholstery. The only reason I can think of for this is that owners must think it's safe. Well, not only is it not safe, it also doesn't work anymore. It also does little to set one facility apart from another in a prospective member's mind. (The same could apply to retail and its customers too, if you think about it, although my specialty is clubs and workout facilities.)

The space we create controls us. The way we arrange the physical space of our environments can strongly enhance or inhibit that which we wish to accomplish in that space.

So, how do we enhance that?

  1. Who are your customers? -- We must first decide who our clients and customers are and satisfy their specific tastes and needs. For example, age considerations: In older adults, the lens of the eye thickens and yellows, which decreases its ability to distinguish among colors of similar value, particularly in the cooler end (blues) of the spectrum. In addition, the loss of pigmentation in the hair, skin and eyes affects the colors that we want around us. Pure, saturated colors are easier to see and are therefore preferred by older people.

    The aging population, which is larger that it has ever been before, is more sophisticated and has higher expectations that those of a 20-year-old student. And, they have the disposable income to spend. Using richer and more fresh colors that are also tasteful can appeal to this market.

    On the other end of the age spectrum is children. The first color an infant can see is red. Color preferences of children are primary colors - usually "one-word colors," as experts call them, are the favorites. Adolescents prefer more complex "two or more word" colors. Individuals in the group of 18-30 year olds seems to be drawn mostly by current color trends and are willing to experiment.

  2. How can layout enhance the space? -- The arrangement of equipment can also be used to enhance a workout experience (or shopping, if you want to extrapolate this information to another arena). Who ever said equipment must all be lined up in long neat rows? Another way to think about it comes from a leading Ph.D. in human physiology, Paul Juris. He has said, "humans do not think in a linear pattern." But somehow that's what our industry provides consumers -- over and over. As an industry, we should think about alternative options: arranging equipment groups in arc-shapes (semi-circles), starting in the center of your facility with an oval-shaped cardio platform and then radiating selectorized and strength equipment around it, lining the cardio equipment all around the perimeter and then do groupings of different spaces in the center. Try something different and see what happens - customers will notice and will like it, I will bet.

The mid-brain, without training or conditioning responds instinctively to colors and shapes. If we are smart, we will use that to our own benefit - and that of our customers and therefore also our business.The interior design should enhance well-being, creativity and performance for all participants, customers, and clients.

Del Reanne Lucas is president of Albuquerque, N.M.-based DRJ Designs Inc., which has designed over 350 fitness facilities around the world in the past 21 years. In today's competitive market and with the education and sophistication of customers, design is no longer an option -- it is a necessity. For more information, go to, or contact Del Reanne at or 505-881-4377.



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