Carlsson Chee
Jul 26, 2018 · 4 min read

The Oscars 2017 had the same fiasco of what Steve Harvey went through in 2016. The importance of design and typography could have helped avoided this embarrassing incident. Many times, I have stressed to my clients and students that not only was typography important, the hierarchy of type has an extremely important role to play in visual communication as well. Well, let me get to the point using the Oscars 2017 fiasco as an example.

Based off the photos from the Internet, I’ve remade what the card would have looked like:


Based on the picture above, you would see that the people who designed this wanted to place importance of “The Oscars” branding above the rest, which is quite redundant as people who received the award knows that this is the prestigious award. The other thing that you would notice, is that the font for the name of the movie and the name of the directors and producers are similar in size. If, in the event where no mistakes were made, of course, there wouldn’t be much of a difference.

Now, taking all these into consideration, based on the design above, this is possibly what Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were holding:

Here’s the problem — They were presenting the award for Best Picture, and notice the little words Best Actress at the bottom which isn’t very obvious; even more so for people of their age. The first thing that Warren Beatty saw was “EMMA STONE” and then LA LA LAND, which confused him. The words “Best Actress” DID NOT fulfil its purpose of being there at all, and when Faye Dunaway was shown the card, knowing that they were the presenters for Best Picture, she skipped “EMMA STONE” and went straight to LA LA LAND.

Typographical Hierarchy

People may talk about typography, but this is where typographical hierarchy plays an extremely crucial role. What typographical hierarchy does is to communicate visually, so that the people who design the card are in control of what the hosts see first, where they look next, and how the other elements might help in case a glitch like this happens.

Putting this in perspective, in the case of the wrong card — To solve this problem, the first thing that would capture your attention should be the winner, which in this case, would be “EMMA STONE”, followed by Best Actress, and finally, LA LA LAND.

If both Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were given this card, it would be extremely obvious to know that they were given the wrong card. The control hierarchy of the typography immediately tells you that this card is for BEST ACTRESS and not BEST PICTURE. Even the branding of The Oscars logo at the bottom is not too tiny to be noticed or too big to be distracted from the name of the winner itself.

I believe that the designing team or maybe even a single designer who worked on this might have either overlooked it, or that maybe the execs at PwC who doesn’t have any knowledge on design decided that they “want the logo bigger”. Such design process is to be done by the designer which is why, very often, the process of such important visual communication isn’t appreciated until such things happen.

With that, I’ll end with a mockup of what might have been a better choice for design of the card for the winners of the Best Picture.

Spiffy, ain’t it? ;)

Originally published on 1 March 2017.


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Carlsson Chee

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Brand Strategist • Creative Accelerant • Idea Catalyst



Asia's leading mobile consultancy and the preferred choice for cross platform mobile engagement strategies

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