If you are planning to open a new club or renovate an existing one, you likely are thinking about design and how to make your facility impressive, memorable and inviting. Good design does not just happen. Both you and your designer need design inspiration, and that is something you can find in unexpected places.

The best source of inspiration comes from visiting other businesses. Health clubs have become a hospitality business, which is why it is a good idea to look at other hospitality businesses—even chains. Chains spend a great deal of time and money researching what does and does not attract people. McDonald’s has dramatically upgraded the décor in many of its facilities and is spending another $2.9 billion this year for more renovations. The company chose to renovate because sales had been down and menu changes were having less of an effect on revenue. The renovated McDonald’s stores have had strong sales increases.

The best part about taking inspiration from this chain is that it is not high end, so the company is being cost-effective in its renovations to make it look like it is upscale without spending an upscale price. Visit a McDonald’s to review where it upgraded its design. That is where McDonald’s felt it would get the most bang for its buck. Perhaps it is where you can, too.

Next, go to newer or recently renovated shopping malls. They present a wonderful opportunity to quickly assess a wide array of décor ideas. Stores in malls must make a good first impression since they must compete for shoppers’ attention with many other businesses in a close proximity.

In this day and age when everything is online, don’t forget to check the Internet for inspiration. Many hotels and restaurants have pictures of their facilities on their websites. By going online, you “visit” a lot more businesses in a shorter amount of time than personal visits allow. A drawback to looking for inspiration this way is that you do not get to experience how the design of these businesses makes you feel when you walk in.

However, by being thorough when you visit these businesses whether online or in person, you will be rewarded with some great décor ideas. When you make visits to these businesses, keep these suggestions in mind:

• Know what to look for during these visits. What appeals to you about the space? What visual elements in the room stand out to you in a positive and a negative way? What design elements make you want to tell a friend about the place?

• Think about what design elements would make people focus on the environment around them rather than the fact that they are exercising. I

• Take pictures so you can refer to them later. Compare different design and décor concepts. Then, think about combining a number of them at your club.

• Bring along someone of the opposite sex, especially if you are opening or renovating a coed facility. You want the facility to be attractive to both men and women.

• Pay attention to how space is divided. Walls are not the only way to separate spaces.

• Be cognizant of your first impression. What did you think when you first walked into the space, and why did you have this impression? Did you think the space was too bright, too dark, too colorful or too bland? Did the space overwhelm you?

• Think about how the design affects your impression of the business’s image and brand.

• Pay attention to how the following interact: finishes (laminates, wall coverings and colored Plexiglas), colors, lighting (sconces, pendants and drum lighting), flooring, ceilings, furnishings and artwork.

Though not everyone will notice a design change, the majority of people do. This majority responds strongly to what they see—good or bad. Therefore, you must create the most beautifully motivational and exciting space you can within your budget. To do so, you have to be observant and keep track of design elements that you think work well, then incorporate those into your facility.

Just a few new concepts could make a big difference.

BIO

Bruce Carter is the president of Optimal Fitness Design Systems International, a club design fi rm that has created about $650 million worth of clubs in 45 states and 26 countries.