Back in May, we wrote about how Joe Wicks became the nation’s PE teacher during those early months of national lockdown. And as a second lockdown descended upon England last month, again Wicks was there not only with his daily 30 minute PE sessions, but he also released a new YouTube series to get us exercising. The Body Coach brand has carved out a space of unrelenting energy and positivity, and it’s continued to flourish during a time where moving and exercising has, for many, been the only light in a very dark year.
To help grow this space, the Body Coach has just launched a new app, which offers a more tailored approach to fitness and nutrition. “It’s for the people that want to take their journey to the next level,” says Nikki Wicks, COO and creative director at the Body Coach (plus Joe’s brother). “One of the main features is that we tailor the meal plans to each user, so they’re eating just the right amount of food. We also give them a workout plan with real-time workouts with Joe, that match their individual fitness levels – ranging from beginner, intermediate and advanced.”
To help bring the app to life, Nikki enlisted the help of design and tech studio Ustwo and design agency Koto, who’d already worked on the rebrand of the Body Coach earlier in the year. “It was vital the work we did captured [Joe’s] infectious energy, the positivity which makes Joe the success he is,” says creative director and founder of Koto, James Greenfield on the key features of the rebrand. “So we took the bright colours the brand already used and then added a graphic layer built around this, with every element feeling like it moved. From a logo that is active, warm and approachable to a graphic language that utilises ‘hites’ (the active lines used in animation and comics to denote movement) to typography that isn’t just a standard cold typeface.”
When it came to the app, Koto knew the brand would be launching this element separately, so the team ensured key visual assets of typography, colour, illustration and iconography were created alongside everything else to maintain consistency. “When working on brands like this we are looking to achieve three outcomes: firstly something that is true, a brand which represents the experience of working out with Joe and the 90-day plan,” says Greenfield. “Secondly, something that is distinctive – Joe is a hit as he stands out in an often boring world so the brand needed to do the same. Lastly, the Body Coach community is going to be using this app everyday (we hope), so we want it to get better with time. It also needs to expand along with Joe so as he makes new content and new partnerships the brand evolves with him.”
Though the Body Coach brand has existed online from the beginning, Nikki brought on Ustwo to help develop the app and create the best digital experience possible. “When the brief first came to us we were already Body Coach fans. A fair few people in the studio had first-hand experience of the 90-day plan and had seen how it had changed lives. The opportunity to take this powerful mechanic – currently delivered via a mix of a downloadable PDF and YouTube videos – and move that to digital was huge,” explains Helen Fuchs, design director at Ustwo London.
Fuchs says the project was more than the product for them as it was also about establishing a sense of longevity. “We worked to shape a business model and proposition both for now and the future, we created the back-end system for ‘support heroes’ to manage subscriptions and a website to communicate the mission and vision,” she says. “Alongside this we are helping Joe build his digital capability.”
A key challenge of the app was translating Joe’s positivity and inclusivity into app form. “Fitness visual identities often perpetuate this industry focus with hi-gloss imagery and a sharp feel. Joe stands for something totally different, a kinder, more inclusive approach to food and exercise. Koto reflected that in their friendly identity and we took that a step further within the product,” says Fuchs.
“Our product direction was all about creating an app that was a source of energy for people – a feel good battery that’s always with you. We wanted to recreate the feeling you get from being with Joe, it’s utterly infectious – whatever you put in you’ll get back in buckets. This drove the feel of the app, we did away with sharp lines and instead introduced softened, bouncier curves. We used the energy lines Koto brought in to draw people through the experience and down screens. The small line-drawn loaders and animations help build excitement to get going.”
As well as the visual elements, Nikki says there were changes made with the language used and the specific actions in the app. “At check-in after each cycle, we ask users to tell us how they’ve progressed, but we’ve shifted the focus away from weight loss and we encourage users to tell us how they’re feeling; do they have more energy, have they been sleeping better, do they feel happier? We want people to associate exercise and nutrition with feeling good, not just looking good,” he explains.
The app is set to be crammed full of content for users, but more than that, everyone involved hopes the app will provide motivation and a space to transform both physical and mental health.
“I love some of the features in the app, but for me the design has been so important in making this product feel fun and accessible,” says Nikki. “The rebrand work that Koto did for us really captured Joe’s energy perfectly, and Ustwo has done such an incredible job of bringing it all to life in the digital experience. We can’t wait to share it with the world.”