Interactive Systems Mapping

Carnegie Mellon Cohon Fitness Center

Systems Group Project, 2019

Click here to view interactive map!



Communities of practice emerge as we seek to connect with like-minded individuals who share similar interests and are driven by similar motivations. We rely on other actors (human & non-human) to help us make sense of the world as evidenced by our daily practices. Daily practices are an important area of study for designers as they make visual the socio-technical relationships that structure our everyday lives. Overall, communities are shaped through systems of interaction as facilitated through communication (verbal & non-verbal), shared assets, social practices and cultural relationships.


Based on common interests, my group wanted to focus around the user dynamics within the University Center gym because our daily observations have shown an overwhelming dynamic where we the first floor (heavy weights) of the gym is almost always predominantly male while the second floor (cardio machines) has a more equal mix of males & females.


In order to analyze the cause of this pattern, we decided to collectively define what the CMU fitness center is and use design research methods to better understand how and why it organizes to fulfill their own needs.




  1.  Develop system map which illustrates hierarchy and relationships that exist within the Cohon Fitness center

  2.  Identify community assets and local knowledge present within the fitness trainer and trainee.

  3. Understand how the stakeholders develop a consensus of understanding around shared values. 

  4.  Clearly communicate the power dynamics, organizing infrastructure, motivations, and shared values



Preliminary Research

Because we eventually had to connect both the micro and macro levels of the fitness center relationships, we decided to start with the conservation between a) trainer and trainee along with b) group class instructor/programmer and build out from there. These two conversations are what we're most familiar in terms of what's actually said based upon interviews with all groups.





Conversation A: Trainer & Trainee

Conversation B: Class Programmer & Instructor (initial sketch on left and cleaned-up version on right)


Layout Sketching & Ideation

As part of our macro conversation, we decided we were going to analyze the relationship of the gym itself with the university center along with the entire Carnegie Mellon campus. For our micro conversation, we planned on analyzing the different zones involved in the gym such as the calisthenics section, cardio machine section, light/heavy weights section, etc.. 


In theory, this all sounded really good to us, but we were stuck on the question of how do we visualize this in a 2D poster when our concept is spatially-based?


After sketching out some ideas of representing the layers involved with our fitness community, it just became too complex to fit everything on one page. Most groups were analyzing just one other macro/micro scale, but with this many components, a 2D version just wouldn't get the in-depth analysis across.