Public Recreation

Democratizing Fitness in Public Spaces

Project Overview

Public Recreation began a design exercise to imagine what a city designed for health might look like.

The company went through many iterations, starting as a new type of urban, fitness furniture, eventually evolving into a new type of gym that offered fitness classes (like, boxing or yoga) in public spaces. It was accepted to Y Combinator in 2018

As part of our product offering, we also developed an app to deliver on fast, at-home workouts, texted to you daily.
2017 - 2020
Adobe XD, Figma, Invision, Zeplin, Github
UX/UI Design, Web Design, User Research, Product Management
Ethnographic Research Report, Personas, Business Model, Brand Guidelines, IA Map, User Flows, Prototypes, Screens, Marketing Collateral


The "Designed to Move" report, put out by Nike in 2012, highlighted how populations were experiencing massive negative health impacts from a lack of daily "movement".

Traditional fitness classes, such as Barry's Bootcamp, had been shown to be incredibly effective at delivering the necessary mix of strength and cardio to promote health, but the cost of these classes were exorbitant and untenable to most.

We set out to understand both why these classes were effective, and what we could do to deliver results in the cheapest, most efficient way.
How Might We...?
...bring the experience of "luxury" fitness to a wider audience?
...leverage community to make fitness habits stickier?
...deliver the most efficient, habit forming workouts?

Initial Research

Research began with a multi-phase approach to better understand the space:

1. An ethnographic study, utilizing guerrilla interviews, looking at people's fitness habits and various fitness experiences.
2. Secondary research on habit formation and the fitness industry.
3. Pop-up classes with follow up user interviews on fitness habits.

What creates successful fitness habits?

We developed multiple personas around our research and, through our research, honed in on the most important characteristics that contributed to success in fitness:


The "why" for fitness. Many folks wanted to get their bodies to look better, but the success stories layered additional, deeper motivations. A health related "why" was a massive indicator for success.

Social Pressure

Peer pressure is real. The participants that had a peer group or friends that worked out with them also represented a leading indicator for success on their fitness journey.

"My father had a heart attack when I was 17. I can't do that to my family"


There is an overwhelming amount of information around health and physical fitness (much of it conflicting). The sheer intimidation factor of having to learn enough to map and progress in one's health was often a turn off at some point.


We heard over and over again how fitness fell to the bottom of the list of priorities (against work, family, other obligations). For fitness to "fit" in among all the other time constraints, having it be extremely convenient and efficient was key.

"Just tell me what to do...I don't want to think about it."

Hack the Model

In examining the competitive landscape, the primary driver for the cost was the overhead required to run a brick and mortar studio such as a Barry's Bootcamp. Build outs, operating costs, instructor salary and more, required that the per class price be high.

It was clear that by eliminating the biggest parts of the overhead - that is the brick and mortal build out and maintenance - that classes could be vastly reduced in price.

Most of the equipment necessary could easily fit in a small storage locker, able to be placed in any public space, making the actual studio space unnecessary.

Additionally, instructor salary could be increased, allowing for talent attraction and retention to be increased.
A new type of gym, all outdoors, all classes.

Build Support

We defined support in 3 main categories of focus to support Public Recreation's members:

Brand Voice

Community Building

Curriculum Programming

"Sure I want to be sexy, but that hasn't been enough to motivate me in the past."

Brand Voice

We worked to develop a brand that exuded playfulness and invited the users in. Colors would be high contrasted and visible from far away. We were also aware that our brand would be a physical presence in the community and aimed to have physical indicators directing members to the hub.

Community Building

To support a strong community, we engaged in a multi-prong strategy to foster and maintain tight bonds between Public Recreation Members.

Instructor Presence

The frontline of the Public Recreation experience was the instructors themselves. With this in mind, we designed a rigorous training program to ensure that instructors would have all the tools they needed to support and grow the Public Recreation community.

The program consisted of de-escalation training, tips for class engagement, and personal development seminars.


Public Recreation sites were out in the open, so we aimed to have them act as community beacons, enriching any space they inhabited.

To accomplish this, we designed multiple elements as part of the "gym build out" for any new site, including ground treatments, locker storage, and murals.


Knowing that peer pressure was a defining feature of "stickiness" (and retention) we designed a robust referral program to allow friends to work out together.

Programmed Curriculum

The last phase of Support was to ensure that the curriculum itself was programmed intuitively, to allow members to drop in and "not think".

The program also required progressions so that beginner and advanced members would all get the exercise they needed.

The other key was lowering the bar for how hard the workout needed to be/feel to achieve a member's goals, thereby defeating the voice in their head talking them out of exercising.

Remove Obstacles

The key obstacles to address for Public Recreation came down to making their fitness routine convenient, easy, and thoughtless.

To ensure a seemless user experience, we designed our software to make registering, showing up for, and learning about our classes as frictionless as possible.

"I want to workout, but life always gets in the way."

Public Recreation Web Platform

Our first task was to design the software that would act as the "front desk" for a gym with no walls. We would need to account for all the different user types including members, instructors, managers and business administrators.

Additionally, it needed to be mobile first, since all of our stakeholders would be distributed and likely out in the "field".

Due to budget constraints, I was unable to design for a native app, so we opted for a mobile optimized webapp.

Information Architecture

A quick IA exercise allowed us to map the different user types and identify areas of focus to streamline their experience. We divided the member experience into a potential member and current member so that we could create a unique flow for first time visitors.
We identified 3 primary user categories: Members, Instructors and Admins, each with unique needs.

User Flows

Next we designed the flows for the different user types, building preliminary wireframes for the different use cases.

Testing and Production

After a number of prototyping cycles, I worked with the engineering team to build the platform out, including a complete payment integration utilizing Stripe.

A key component to the production was ensuring that all the admin tools could be utilized by both instructors and the management team to coordinate among multiple sites.

Lastly, we designed an built the reporting dashboards to give the team insights into class and site performance.

Workout Daily App

At Home Workouts, Texted Daily

The last portion of our "Remove Obstacle" design goal was to supercharge convenience with a supplementary app that Public Recreation members could use when they weren't able to attend class.

The app put special emphasis on short, intense workouts, as well as group "challenges".


Designing for a new model of a comprehensive fitness experience forced me to to dive deep into the psychology behind our various stakeholder - the business owners, the instructors and the end users.

In doing so, I was able to develop a brand new model for delivering fitness.

While branding is important, it was also clear that more time should have been spent on the in class experience of the user, but time did not allow us to flesh that out.

My end conclusion, however, is that the future of fitness will be social - as there was no greater universal driver for exercise.
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