Halo Moments

Last week, Brian Walker from IDEO’s Smart Spaces practice gave an interesting talk here in San Francisco that introduced the concept of halo moments:

His talk was mainly around designing for “moments that matter.” Not every moment in a location (service) should be memorable, but those that are are made up of “time + space + emotion.” It is important to pick key “halo” moments that influence all the other non-moments, but make sure that you are picking the right moments—they aren’t always the ones you expect. (e.g. In a hotel, entering the room is a great halo moment, not check-in.) You want to design spaces so that there is a feeling of “serendipity, not staging.”

As a neologism, “halo moment” is pretty compelling. The term relies on an understanding of the halo effect, a concept from psychology (and more recently, branding) whereby positive initial experiences influence later perception. It’s not part of the established service design canon, and as far as I can tell, no one outside of ideo.com and an anonymous hotel reviewer have ever used the term in this way.

Translated to service design jargon, there are some parallels with service moments, moment concepts, moments of truth and critical incidents. According to Mark Jones (also from IDEO), a service moment is a single event that occurs at a touchpoint, such as walking up to a teller window. Shelley Evenson from CMU coined the term moment concept to describe ideation around key service moments. Moments of truth are more specific. They happen whenever a customer has a face-to-face interaction with an employee. Moments of truth that lead to extremely favorable or unfavorable impressions are critical incidents.

Halo moments seem like a better fit as an experience design concept than a service design concept since the focus is centered on memorability—a key threshold for experiences.

In that vein, a parallel from experience design revolves around what Witold Rybczynski calls memory points. These are distinctive features home developers use to capture visitor attention and differentiate a particular model home from others a visitor might encounter. In practice, memory points serve as experiential landmarks. They can also be emotionally evocative.

That’s one of the things I like about Walker’s deconstruction of memorability: time + space + emotion. Ideally it seems like you’d want to design for both the distinctiveness of an encounter and its emotional resonance.


  1. Mike Jones

    BJ Fogg, the persuasive technology researcher, adopted the term “kairos moment” to describe the ideal moment for introducing people to new information. Basically, people are more receptive to new information if they are on unstable ground, their current way of thinking doesn’t make sense, or they have the ability to act on that information immediately. A halo moment seems to leverage that same idea: there are snippets of time where the influence benefit / cost ratio is very high, and using that small opportunity can convince people the whole process is enjoyable.

  2. Jeff

    Thanks Mike, that’s another good parallel. I’ve come across Fogg’s name once or twice, but it looks like I need to check out his work more closely.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s