If you’ve been in Antarctica, outer space, or underneath a rock for the last couple of months and therefore haven’t heard about the gaffe, allow me to recap. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, the presenters of the award, were mistakenly handed the envelope for the previous category of Best Actress instead of the Best Picture envelope. Dunaway saw La La Land on the card–which, of course, was the film for which Emma Stone won Best Actress–and announced it as the Best Picture winner. The crew of La La Land got midway through their acceptance speeches before the error was realized and Moonlight was invited to the stage to accept the award which they had rightfully won. Yikes!
On the surface, this whole situation seems like it is probably just an innocent mistake–human error in handing over the wrong envelope, nothing more. But with a clever speculative redesign, creative strategist Benjamin Bannister revealed that actually, the whole snafu could have been avoided with just a touch of damn good communication.
Bannister believed that it was partially the envelope’s unclear typography (a.k.a. font size, design, and placement) that kept Dunaway and Beatty from realizing they had been handed the wrong one. So, he took it upon himself to put together a potential design that would solve some of these issues of clarity. Check it out:
Bannister’s “After” looks pretty great to us, and here’s the super simple reason why: the most important information is the easiest to read.
First, there’s the category, Best Actress, made larger and placed at the very top. That means it’s the first thing anyone would read, so Dunaway and Beatty would have realized right away that their envelope was incorrect. And that replacement in no way impedes the overall look of the envelope; the Oscars logo definitely doesn’t need to be prominent as it was in the “Before” envelope (since it’s only decoration, not essential info), so it fits just as well at the bottom.
Second, there’s Emma Stone’s name, made significantly larger than anything else on the card. Since the winner’s name is the information being read out, it should absolutely be the most eye-catching and obvious thing on the envelope. There’s no way a presenter could see this and assume the comparatively tiny text of “La La Land” is what they are supposed to announce!
This really is a simple fix, but Bannister is totally right in his thinking that this could have saved everyone a whole lot of heartache. Even these few changes make it really, really obvious that this is not the Best Picture card–which is a good lesson in how even the smallest changes can help improve your communication!
The more readable your communication is, the more likely its recipients are to, well, read it. So in everything you write, from emails to information booklets, consider: is this font easy to read? Is the very first thing they read the very first thing they need to know? Can I bold, enlarge, or highlight the information that’s most important? You don’t want to be ToO wAcKy with your typography, because then it just becomes hard to read in a different way; your improvements can really just be as easy as moving a few elements around, like Bannister did with his mock-up card.
And if you mess up a little along your journey to typographical expertise, just remember this comforting refrain: at least you’ll never screw up as badly as the stagehand who gave Warren Beatty the wrong envelope.