Don’t Blame Steve, Blame Bad Design.

Cue Card

Did you see Steve Harvey’s epic fail this week at the Miss Universe 2015 Pageant? If you somehow missed out on all of the drama, host Steve Harvey announced Miss Colombia as the winner of the pageant, when in fact she was the first runner up and Miss Philippines was the true winner.

Only 15 minutes passed before the Internet was filled with people’s reactions to the blunder. Twitter and Reddit users were trolling Harvey saying he couldn’t read and was blind. Although it was clear that Harvey did misread the cue card, at first glance most people say they would have misread it as well.

Don Norman’s book The Design of Everyday Things states “…In my experience, human error usually is a result of poor design: it should be called system error. Humans err continually; it is an intrinsic part of our nature. System design should take this into account. Pinning the blame on the person may be a comfortable way to proceed, but why was the system ever designed so that a single act by a single person could cause calamity? Worse, blaming the person without fixing the root, underlying cause does not fix the problem: the same error is likely to be repeated by someone else.”

Poor Steve Harvey is getting the brunt of the blame for the Miss Universe flub, when the card design is what is truly to blame. Although, the information on the card does read correctly, it is obviously confusing as to how the information is laid out, and how it should be read. Did the Miss Universe team-member responsible for this embarrassing card really think that it was legible? Well if they did, they could have fooled all of us.

After photos surfaced, it is obvious that the card was confusing. The “Miss Universe” winner section looks more like the title of the card and less like a header. It is pushed so far to the right of the card that it looks as though it isn’t even a part of the second and first runner up announcement. The information is scattered throughout the card and the hierarchy of the type is confusing to say the least.

Debbie Millman, a designer at the School of Visual Arts stated in regards to the Miss Universe Pageant fiasco “It is a sad state of affairs when information graphics do more harm than good for something so innocuous.” The card could have been designed much better with just a few simple changes. If all of the information had been aligned to the left of the page, it would have been grouped in the same place making more sense to the reader. Also, if the type sizes were a bit more consistent, it could have been useful to the readers understanding of the card.

So all in all, the design could have been better, and surely this is an embarrassing lesson learned for the Miss Universe Organization. Hopefully next year Harvey will have a little more rehearsal time too.

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