Miss Universe card
And the winner is…

By now you have probably seen the infamous card that Steve Harvey used he when he announced the wrong person won Miss Universe.

A lot of people are having fun at the expense of Harvey, but some have pointed out that the card that was used was poorly designed and that is the real reason that Harvey goofed in front of a worldwide audience. I’m in the camp that says the card was poorly designed.

Disclaimer: I’m passionate about user-centered design for the web and apps, which means the details of design that prevent human error gets me excited. You’ve been warned. 

Miss Universe
Miss Universe 2015 card

We know that people in western society read from left to right, top to bottom. In the image above, I have highlighted the path the eye would likely have to take to scan the card once. That’s quite a bit of real estate for the eye to travel for (what should be) a simple message. Now, if you’re like me, you had to scan the card twice to take in the meaning, so the red line could easily extend from the bottom right back to the top left and back again.

Steve likely compartmentalized the information on the card and completely missed the MISS UNIVERSE 2015 label. Objects in close proximity to each other are seen as related and it’s out there on it’s own. The first two items on the card create a pattern and the winner deviates from that pattern and is placed in the least prominent place on the card.

The placement of the winner was a poor choice for another reason: Steve was holding the card in the bottom right corner moments before he made the announcement. It’s likely that his hand at least partially covered the most important information. This is why I am such a advocate for user-centered design—if someone stopped to think that the host might be holding the card with their right hand, this entire thing could have been avoided.

Moments before the winner was announced, Steve is holding the card on the bottom right
Moments before the winner was announced, Steve is holding the card on the bottom right

Lastly, elimination is spelled wrong on the card, which doesn’t inspire confidence in me that much thought was put into this card to begin with.


What it should have looked like
Consistency is key

In the image above, we see that this version is much easier to read because it’s consistent and easy to scan. It’s also centered on the card, so it’s not possible for Steve’s hand to cover important information.

The only thing I can think of to improve the card would be removing the 1st Runner up altogether, because only the names of the 2nd runner up and the winner are announced. Credit to designbynumbers.io for the image.

As I observed the argument today I saw over and over again that Steve Harvey’s job was to read the card right and he failed. That may be true—but getting paid doesn’t change basic human psychology and design principles.