Getting a queer fitness brand in shape.
A new brand and website for the Queer Gym in Oakland.
The Queer Gym is a place where people of all stripes can come to build strength, endurance, and community.
One of the most common mistakes designers make is confusing themselves with the client. But on my last project, I happened to be both. The Queer Gym is the first LGBTQ+ gym in the nation, and it also happens to be where I get my sweat on.
I joined the Queer Gym almost two years ago. At the time, I wasn’t active at all, and I was drawn to the non-judgmental space. As it turns out, lots of queers are. The gym boasts a lively, diverse, passionate community of members as well as incredibly talented trainers. Its brand, however, wasn’t quite as strong.
As a small business, the Queer Gym’s brand and communications had been put together on the fly by its owner, Nat Huerta. But the gym is growing, and in addition to more space, it needed a brand and website with some muscle behind it.
So I pitched Nat: let me help you get your brand in shape the way you’ve helped my flat ass. We talked in terms that made sense to a personal trainer. I wasn’t going to go in and give the gym a whole new superficial look, like lipo. We were going to do some hard work together. Our aesthetic gains were going to come with the functional improvements, namely a stronger way of thinking and talking about the brand.
Our #fitspo were gyms and trainers like Equinox, SoulCycle, and Barry’s Bootcamp which transcend the workouts to become lifestyle brands. Members feel like being a part of these gyms says something about them—that they’re part of the superhot elite, spiritually fit as well as toned, or that they go hard in life. Doing a comparative review of national and local competitors helped Nat see how photography, branding, and copy helped elevate these gyms to something beyond “where the weights are kept.”
We knew that the Queer Gym was special to members in the same way. Belonging to the Queer Gym community, the #fitfam, allows many members to feel strong and proud. For many LGBTQ+ people, going to the gym is a source of anxiety. Am I safe using the locker room that aligns with my gender identity? Will that dude hit on me while I work out with my girlfriend? Is this going to end up with getting beat up like high school gym class?
Queer Gym members have always proudly flaunted the homophobia, transphobia, and body shaming common in typical gyms. What we wanted to do was communicate what was special about the gym with a visual identity they would also proudly flaunt.
The new visual identity is not only more wearable, it’s more inclusive. The silhouette in the original logo had previously undergone a refresh to be less gendered. It lost a ponytail and breasts but remained a fairly narrow representation of the type of body you might see in a gym. The new logo combines the gym’s initials to create a weight, focusing the identity not on what members look like but what they come to the gym for—to feel stronger and healthier. By not trying to represent the varied identities within the Queer Gym community literally, the new identity represents them much more equally.
Of course, our work together wasn’t just about a new look, as important as that was to our goals. The Queer Gym redesign also had key business objectives in mind, which are achieved by meeting the needs of members: namely, more butts in classes (preferably squatting and lunging).
The visual identity was a good warm-up—after all, a logo members will wear turns clients into brand ambassadors—but the website needed an overhaul to better engage with current members and get new members to book an initial consult.
From interviews with members, we knew what drew and kept people at the gym: awesome coaches, a diverse community, the gym’s fun vibe and no-pressure approach to fitness, and location.
We also knew some of the common questions they had while they were still just prospective members: what are the membership options, what are the benefits of being a member, and what are the workouts like?
The old site didn’t do a great job of communicating the gym’s strengths or answering prospective member’s questions. We also found out that most current members didn’t use the site after joining. They received most of their communication via email or a closed Facebook group and booked workouts through a third-party app. This was also a missed opportunity to get current members to share the gym’s content and refer friends.
The site architecture was reorganized to surface the most important information: what it’s like to work out at the gym, what the workouts are like, what’s happening the gym community, and who does the training.
The website uses photography of a diverse group of real members enjoying tough-but-fun workouts to support copy in the brand’s newly defined “casual badass” voice to show what’s it’s like to belong to the Queer Gym. The gym’s Instagram account is also featured prominently, as many members said they creeped on social media before joining to get a sense of the vibe.
Descriptions of the gym’s cleverly-named classes (“Oakland Booty,” “Hardcore Homo,” and “Tops & Bottoms” to name a few) are paired with photos of the types of exercise you might actually do in those classes as well as quick tags that explain the type of benefits of each class. Because, lez be honest, Tops & Bottoms could be anything (it’s a strength class, and it’s flippin’ awesome).
Coaches are given more prominence on the new site, elevated to the top-level nav and given individual profile pages for each coach. Coaches’ profiles also feature Instagram feeds (as well as the ability to add other social handles and contact information) to increase the personal connection between members and staff. Profile pages can feature testimonials unique to that coach. Profiles are tied to an employment CTA to help build a steady stream of fitness talent.
The member community features prominently on the new site as well in blog stories featured on the home and “Community” pages as well as testimonials that can point to longform member stories and Yelp reviews.
The “Gym Info” section of the blog gives current members new incentives to visit the site for announcements and deals, and the redesigned blog post template increases the prominence of sharing and commenting.
A gym, by nature, is a physical space, but the Queer Gym community extends far beyond its walls. Now, it has a digital home that is not only reflective of its attitude, strength, diversity, and sheer awesomeness but will help it grow and thrive. I’m proud to have helped the gym level up and pumped to help the brand get even stronger.
If you’re curious about the gym, I’m there 6 days a week in the morning and happy to cheer you on. If you’re curious about my work, check out my portfolio.