Designing A Hybrid Gym Space With Sarah Mannerings

Jan 29, 2021 - 4 min read
How to design a hybrid gym space

The rise in experiential fitness is no longer limited to big boutique gyms or chic yoga studios. Realizing your club’s design potential is can help maximize engagement, accelerate growth, and drive revenue. This is where Sarah Mannerings comes in.

As a Brand and Interior Design Specialist for the Fitness and wellness industry, Sarah has an acute understanding of marketing, customer experience, branding, and functionality – and she brings this all together under one roof; that roof being a gym or fitness studio. These days, however, Sarah is increasingly concerned with hybrid spaces; that is, places that function in both the real world and online.

For the third episode of our Lunch & Learn webinar series, Sarah shares how to best utilize design as a storytelling solution for your gym to strategically develop your brand for online and offline success.

Key Takeaways From Sarah’s Talk:

1. Purpose Drives Branding and Design

All successful brands tend to be purpose-led. Brands need to have a reason to exist that your staff and customers can all resonate with and which will help to define your story. This is one of the most important things to understand when building a brand in today’s market.

When you go to pitch to an investor, you might have all your numbers working, but if you don’t have a strong purpose and mission behind your brand you’ll likely find it very difficult to pitch with authority and investors will see straight through this.

So I see kind of the brand as the storyteller, but the interior is kind of the theatre where you tell that story… if that makes sense.

- Sarah Mannerings

2. Many Companies Let Design Take the Backseat

Many brands that don’t take design seriously from the outset are already on the back foot not just for engaging customers but also for engaging investors down the line.

The point about design is you try to pre-empt customer needs and operational needs before you actually start becoming visible to the market (i.e., before you build your brick and mortar site and before you start socializing with your online community.)

This means you try to foresee challenges and expectations and resolve them before they become an issue – or cost you money to correct! In doing this your customer feels that you intuitively understand them, helping them feel that they belong. They have less need to complain publicly about their experience, plus your staff can perform at their best as their service needs have been considered in the design strategy. This all weighs into the overall success of the brand.

3. To Build a Brand Based on a Hybrid Model, You Need to Plan for Recording

If you want to build a brand based on a hybrid model then consider either planning a dedicated recording studio. During the design stages, plan a zone within your main studio where you could record your online content. Think about your backdrop, i.e., finishes, textures, and definitely consider lighting.

If you will be filming in your main class studio then you’re probably going to want to incorporate white light into your lighting scheme that will only be used for online recordings.

Remember video recordings will likely look darker than real life and a lot of gyms and boutique studios already have quite dark lighting! You may also want to consider the backdrop from two separate angles too, so that your viewers can see the instructor front on and sideways. Ideally, this could easily be switched during filming and still look consistent.

Of course, be sure to include power and data locations around the room to give you multiple options. If you want to brand your backdrop then make sure that your video doesn’t flip your content on livestreams so your brand or logo ends up back to front!


Sarah Mannerings is dedicated to unlocking the full potential of gym spaces. Her work is seen around the world, such as in popular fitness clubs like Rowbots . You can connect with Sarah Mannerings on LinkedIn and Facebook , or learn more about her work through her website.

You can also visit our  podcast  page or  FitNation’s Lunch & Learn webinar page for more insightful conversations surrounding the fitness industry.

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Neesha Kanaga

Neesha is a copywriter and wanderer who currently finds herself bound to the weather-challenged Netherlands due to the unforeseen circumstances of 2020.