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The Art and Science of Health Club Design

Bruce Carter, designer of the new Welcyon club interior
Bruce Carter, designer of the new Welcyon club interior

Interview with Bruce Carter, designer of the new Welcyon club interior

How long have you been doing design for fitness clubs? What is your design background?

We’ve been operating as a company for 35 years—since January 1980. I’ve worked in health clubs since I was in high school, so I’ve had a wide range of experiences in the fitness industry. My background is fitness design operations.

What other fitness brands have you done work for?

We’ve designed clubs for most of the major chains including Fitness Evolution, Planet Fitness, and Gold’s Gym. Additionally, we do work for hotel chains like the Sheraton, Hilton, and Weston, and corporate clients such as Xerox, Phoenix Mutual, and Aetna. We have also designed many private clubs for condos.

What is the most important thing to consider when designing a health club?

Occasionally, I give workshops on the psychology of being active. The big question framing these sessions is: how do you get people to start exercising and keep at it? So when we talk about creating a club, we consider what we want people to do when they’re in that environment. For many people, their dislike for exercise is noticeably reduced when they like the space they’re in. So our job is to create an environment that keeps them inspired and motivated to come back for more.

Why did you take on the Welcyon project? Why do you think it’s important to cater to people over the age of 50?

First, we need to look at the reality for today’s aging Americans. The Baby Boomers have ridden the surfboard of technology. Because of computers and other devices, the need for physical activity has reduced dramatically. All kinds of exercise have taken a back seat during their lifetimes—even the small activities we used to do. Thanks to remote controls, we don’t even leave our chairs to change TV channels. Thanks to email, we don’t leave our desks to talk to someone two cubes away. Unfortunately, a body at rest tends to stay at rest—and gain weight. According to the CDC, almost 35% of all adults in the U.S. are obese. Yet a recent USA Today survey found that 93% of Americans believe exercise is the most important factor for leading a healthy life. But only 17% of us are actually doing it. Why the disconnect?

One big reason is that many people don’t like gyms. This is particularly true of inactive people over the age of 50. They won’t go near big-box places because all they see are acres of hyper-fit young people in spandex-type tank tops. It’s intimidating and for many of them it’s a turnoff.

That’s why Welcyon really stands out in this landscape. They appeal to people who have been exercising sporadically—or not at all. So you don’t feel embarrassed or out of place walking in the door. By creating a welcoming atmosphere where newcomers are coached and supported every step of the way, they break past the fear and help people reach their goals. That’s how lives are changed for the better.

Why did you design the Welcyon prototype the way you did? What were you trying to achieve with the club’s look and feel? How did Welcyon’s members influence your approach to the design?

Our design reflects Welcyon’s relaxed, accepting culture and creates another level of psychological motivation. You walk into a warm, inviting lobby that creates a sense of separation from the workout area. It’s relaxing, so you’re not overwhelmed by the sense that you’ve got to jump right in and start exercising.

Given the club’s discriminating clientele, it had to be upscale and sophisticated, but not exclusive or intimidating. There had to be an element of playfulness and fun. All of this is reflected in the colors and finishes we chose. The space had to say, we’re serious about fitness, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We’re accessible and approachable. You will feel at home here.

With its water wall and giant environmental graphics, the club has a distinct outdoor feel. Why did you choose to incorporate these elements into the design?

Well, nature is another important component. Research shows that people feel less pain when they’re being physically active in a natural setting. That’s why the whole health industry is starting to bring nature into their environments. Earth elements and colors—the woods, water and sky—play a critical role. When you step into the new Welcyon space, it’s almost like being outdoors. The lighting is soft and diffuse—nothing harsh or industrial. Bright lights tend to overwhelm people.

Water—in the form of a water wall—is one of the most important elements we brought to the Welcyon design. From a psychological perspective, water gives you what you need at any given moment. If you need energy, it perks you up. If you need to relax, it is tranquil and helps you unwind. We deliberately placed the water wall in the lobby, so it’s the first and last thing you see. It serves as a kind of gateway into Welcyon, the place you go to escape your daily life and experience a magical world of nature and activity. Passing it again on your way out, the water is refreshing—so you feel really good as you go about your daily life.


If you live in a community that features a Welcyon, we invite you to come in for a tour and cup of coffee. Visit our locations page to find a club near you.

Welcyon Locations

If you’re an entrepreneur looking to own a business that brings purpose beyond profit to your bottom line, we invite you to learn more about our trailblazing franchise concept and open your own Welcyon in your community. For more information, visit our franchise website.

Welcyon Franchising

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Claims of increased strength are based on an analysis of 716 members who exercised for two years. Results will vary based on each individual’s level of participation. Wellness claims are based on evidence in health and exercise science literature.
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