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Why Typography Matters -- Especially At The Oscars (freecodecamp.com) 199

An anonymous reader shares a blog post: There's one thing the Academy possibly didn't consider, or forgot, for this year's winner cards: typography. First, it's legible, you can tell all the letters apart. Second, it's somewhat readable, but the visual weight of "Moonlight" and the producers are equal and blend together. Lastly, even though it is just a winner's card, it's not visually appealing. I think it's fair to say it's objectively bland. That's horrible typography. Of course, anyone could've made the same honest error! You are on television with millions of people around the world watching. You are a little nervous, and you have to read a card. You will most likely read it from top to bottom (visual hierarchy) without questioning whether the card is right. That look on Warren's face was, "This says 'Emma Stone' on it." Faye must've skipped that part and was caught up in the excitement and just blurted out, "La La Land." I don't blame Faye or Warren for this. This was the fault of two entities: whoever was in charge of the design of the winning card (Was it really a design? C'mon), and the unfortunate person who handed them the wrong envelope. A clearly designed card and envelope (don't even get me started on that gold on red envelope) would've prevented this. The blogger, Benjamin Bannister (a creative consultant for old and new media), adds that there were essentially three things wrong with the card in question: Oscars logo need not to be at the top of the card. The category, "Best Acress" was at the bottom, and in small print. And, the winner's name, the main thing that should be read, is the same size as the second line and given equal weight.
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Why Typography Matters -- Especially At The Oscars

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  • by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Friday March 03, 2017 @01:00PM (#53970243)
    Print the category in bold easy to read type on the outside flap of the envelop where the presenter sees it while opening the envelop.
    • by CaptainDork ( 3678879 ) on Friday March 03, 2017 @01:09PM (#53970303)

      Splash it on a big screen and let the audience read the answer in unison like on Family Feud.

    • it's already been done. the auditors are supposed to memorize all the winners in all the categories. but word on some TMZ type blogs is that the two partners assigned to the event this year were too busy snapping pictures and looking at the stars and their near naked bodies

      • it's already been done. the auditors are supposed to memorize all the winners in all the categories. but word on some TMZ type blogs is that the two partners assigned to the event this year were too busy snapping pictures and looking at the stars and their near naked bodies

        True, but memorizing the names doesn't fix giving out the wrong card. All it does is ensure a mistake gets corrected.

    • by Megane ( 129182 )

      That and the very design changes in TFA were literally the first thing I thought of when I heard about the fiasco. (I had to hear about it, because I can't be arsed to care about the crap that comes out of Hollywood these days, so I was watching something else.)

      Seriously, they put the thing that would have just been read before opening the envelope ("Best Actress") at the bottom of the card in mice type? If it were at the top, the error would have been instantly obvious.

    • It wasn't "bold easy to read type", but it WAS on the outside of the envelope (though the front I think), even easily visible in the pictures from TV screens.

      So I think after Warren realized something was wrong, he had looked at both sides of the red envelope, he would have seen "Best Actress" on it.

      BTW, in the discussion afterwards, I did see a clip of Sammy Davis, Jr., being given the wrong card once too -- it was from an earlier category.. (Then he made a joke about the NAACP hearing about this.)

      • It wasn't "bold easy to read type", but it WAS on the outside of the envelope (though the front I think), even easily visible in the pictures from TV screens.

        So I think after Warren realized something was wrong, he had looked at both sides of the red envelope, he would have seen "Best Actress" on it.

        Good points. It does have the award on the front of the envelope; which illustrates how cultural norms, i.e.we write address and names on the front of envelopes, not the back, interferes with good human factors which would place the critical information on the back of the envelope where it would be seen while opening it. The presenters hold the envelope with the front to the audience so they may not see the category before opening, couple that with an expectation they have the correct envelope and you can s

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 03, 2017 @01:03PM (#53970255)

    Wrong.

    There was a whole backstory of Faye and Warren fighting over who got to read Best Picture. Warren eventually conceded to her; he would open the envelope, and Faye would read the name.

    When he looked at the card and started stalling, Faye freaked out that he was going to read the name, so she read it as soon as she was able to see the title.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 03, 2017 @01:20PM (#53970401)

      Plus - Warren had apparently presented two times before, had a rough idea what he was looking for; you can see his confusion. Faye apparently had never presented before, had less of an idea what should "look" right. A quick glance at the card, she saw and read the title.

      Plus, the category is as the article mentions, in tiny type at the bottom of the card. Presumably both these old fogies were not wearing their reading glasses. (76 and 80 years old) The category may have been the least readable part of the card, as well as not being prominent.

      Another point was the envelope exterior had the category as gold foil on deep red, rather than the traditional deep red on gold... Making the category even less readable on the outside, assisting in the mix-up.

      • A quick glance at the card, she saw and read the title.

        The last bastion is the human reading it. Let not poor typography or color choices excuse not taking caution to read the whole thing before announcing. There were several failure points here, not just one. If we are going to rightly lay some fault at the accountant for not handing out the right card envelope due to being not paying proper attention, then Faye also rightly deserves some for not paying proper attention. Perfect typography won't prevent someone from reading part of the text and ignoring the re

        • Perfect typography won't prevent someone from reading part of the text and ignoring the rest.

          Of course it will, that is how typography works. Font sizes, colours and placement all help guide the eye to the important parts of any text. If you've ever marked up some text you'll know how useful some circling of words or a highlighter can be to put emphasis on the important bits

  • Viral Marketing? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by monkeyxpress ( 4016725 ) on Friday March 03, 2017 @01:04PM (#53970263)

    When I first read the story on the front page of basically every newspaper, my immediate thought was that it was a publicity stunt. Maybe it wasn't, but I know that I - and many of my friends - didn't care about the oscars this year until that story popped up. Whether this was 'fake news' or not, we are most definitely entering a strange new world, where information is more readily available than ever, but more unreliable than ever.

    • From what I've heard, one of the PwC accountants was busy tweeting backstage. He was distracted and handed Warren the wrong envelope. The rest is now Oscar history.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Trump's speech this week had more viewers. They need to do something especially when they give the biggest award to a terrible movie just to be PC. The top review on IMDb for it has four stars. That doesn't deserve best picture award.

  • Always 20/20.
    • Re:Hindsight (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Friday March 03, 2017 @01:13PM (#53970343) Homepage

      As I told my son after he fried my laptop a couple of days ago (plugged the power cable into a USB slot because he wasn't paying attention), it's not whether you make a mistake or not, it's whether you learn from it. In my son's case, it's "pay attention when plugging in electrical devices." In PwC's case, it might be "don't tweet while handing the envelopes out" or "design the envelopes/cards to more easily convey their information."

      • Re:Hindsight (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ZorinLynx ( 31751 ) on Friday March 03, 2017 @01:24PM (#53970433) Homepage

        >plugged the power cable into a USB slot because he wasn't paying attention

        How??!

        • by skids ( 119237 )

          Lenovo thinkpad power connectors are very USBish.

        • The USB port is right next to the power port. (This is a 3 year old Toshiba Satellite L-70A.) That USB port had previously lost the little plastic tab that the USB leads usually rest on. My best guess is that my son jammed the round power plug into the rectangular USB hole and one of the USB leads entered the power plug, completing the circuit.

        • >plugged the power cable into a USB slot because he wasn't paying attention

          How??!

          Probably the same way as my dad did when I was home for Christmas. Lots of USB charger adaptors have two ports on them, spaced just far enough that the blades of a power plug will fit in them, but not well or all the way. My dad struggled with that for a good five minutes trying to get it properly plugged in before I looked at it and told him what he was doing wrong.

    • A friend of mine has a visual impairment. He isn't totally blind, but needs to be REALLY CLOSE to words in order to make them out. He often writes technical documentation for his job, and implements various design rules to make it easier to find the part you want in his documents. He doesn't have to do it, but it certainly helps him when he needs to refer to the documentation himself in the future.

      He would have totally designed this card right the first time. PWC probably just had some low level employee
      • by msauve ( 701917 )
        "PWC probably just had some low level employee do it."

        I believe it was all on the 2 employees (who are now banned from working the Oscars). It's been reported that they were the only ones allowed to have knowledge of the winners - they were responsible for everything, beginning with tallying the votes, through handing out the envelopes.
  • ... umm, well, uh, ..., you see, ... er ...

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      They don't.

      So we should just shut them down and send all the people who work for them to design cockpit interfaces for Boeing.

      • I don't think they'd take them back.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

        "The dials on the two vibration gauges (one for each engine) were small and the LED needle went around the outside of the dial as opposed to the inside of the dial as in the previous 737 series aircraft."

        I think they're working at slashdot, in fact. Some useless twat has apparently broken anchor tags.

    • by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Friday March 03, 2017 @02:52PM (#53971081)
      Remember last year when they just gave nominations to good shows and performances and the racists got all in people's faces about how unfair that was? So now in over reaction the Oscars gave Best Picture to a movie that few will ever see. Think about how much your life has been impacted by the Oscar goof this year (meaning announcing the wrong winner, not the goof of giving it to Moonlighting in an act of appeasement) and you'll eventually realize that if the awards no longer matter then the cards that the winners are written on don't matter either.
  • by maz2331 ( 1104901 ) on Friday March 03, 2017 @01:13PM (#53970341)

    ...can help a lot, but let's keep in mind that there is ALWAYS a better idiot out there.

  • "unfortunate person who handed them the wrong envelope"

    It is being reported that Brian Cullinan, who handed out the wrong envelope, was distracted because he was tweeting on his phone despite having been warned not to do so. If this is true, he was negligent, not unfortunate.

  • by kiviQr ( 3443687 ) on Friday March 03, 2017 @01:22PM (#53970413)
    Why we keep talking about typography? It was a really bad design of the card, not an issue of fonts used.
  • by wickerprints ( 1094741 ) on Friday March 03, 2017 @01:27PM (#53970457)

    The article makes a very persuasive case, one that I think many of us can apply in our work as well. You don't have to be a graphic designer or work in graphic design to be able to extract these principles and apply them to your profession.

    1. Mitigate the chance of error across every step in the process. Build in fail-safes. The media has placed the lion's share of the blame on the PwC accountants, and it's fair to say they were largely responsible ("you had ONE job"). But there are other steps in the process, ways of building in fail-safe mechanisms, as this article demonstrates.

    2. Anticipate the impact of human error. Having two accountants, two sets of envelopes, having them memorize the list of winners, is a good thing, but we see here that this failed because when the awards ceremony is live, people might not be as level-headed as they would normally be. There's a lot going on, and the possibility of error as a result of distractions is greater. Ironically, having multiple sets of envelopes is part of the reason why this error occurred, so there must be careful thought toward building the aforementioned redundancy in a way that doesn't inadvertently create additional modes of failure.

    3. Good communication design always places the most important piece of information front and center. This is true whether you work in traditional print, or new media design, or user interface design. And the need for effective design is very frequently underestimated or overlooked entirely.

    You can argue that this was just an awards ceremony, rich people patting each other on the back, yadda yadda. Fine. But what I'm interested in is how we all can use this event as a learning experience in our own lives.

    • You forgot:

      4. Typeset the EULA in all caps, so nobody actually reads it but you can still claim later that you made it clearly stand out as being important.

    • 2. Anticipate the impact of human error. Having two accountants, two sets of envelopes, having them memorize the list of winners, is a good thing, but we see here that this failed because when the awards ceremony is live, people might not be as level-headed as they would normally be. There's a lot going on, and the possibility of error as a result of distractions is greater. Ironically, having multiple sets of envelopes is part of the reason why this error occurred, so there must be careful thought toward b

      • The biggest part of the "human error" factor was that the PwC guy who was passed out the envelopes was spending his time on his smartphone, tweeting to his followers. That, more than anything else, led to the mistake.

        You can debate about fonts and typography all you want, but if the person who is responsible for handing out the correct envelope is too busy tweeting "OMG THE OSCARS ARE SO COOL! #iamcooltoo" to pay attention to his job, then mistakes are going to happen.

        Yes, but there are two different things going on here:

        The guy with the envelope screwing up. Yes, that would not have been avoided by any typography.

        But it would have been NOTICED that the guy just screwed up. THAT would have been the advantage of good typography. One more line of defense.

    • by vux984 ( 928602 )

      But what I'm interested in is how we all can use this event as a learning experience in our own lives.

      Here are the lessons:

      a) unexpected stuff happens in life. roll with it.

      b) some unexpected stuff happens in life that might be avoided if you spend obsessive attention to details. No matter how much time you spend obsessing over details there will be something that you just didn't think of.

      c) spending obsessive attention to detail is not always the best use of our time or money. if you are building a new space suit for astronauts, spend obsessive attention to details.

      The rabbit hole is bottomless.

      How much wo

    • Ironically, having multiple sets of envelopes is part of the reason why this error occurred

      When I first heard this I was wondering how the envelope for a category that had already been announced could be used again. At the last category there should be precisely one left, right? Reading around a bit I suppose the envelope given was one of the red herrings printed to prevent leaks.

      The solution then is simple. Write the category clearly on the envelope, perhaps with a number indicating the sequence. Whe

  • This is somewhat adjacent topic. A philosophy professor once told me that one should put much care in choosing syntax for a logic and its mathematical models. If the readers' main problem is hacking through your syntax, you have done him/her and yourself (when you try to read it later) a disservice.

    It isn't just choice of fonts. If a subscript in one font means something and a subscript in another font means something else, then you should consider not overloading subscripts with both kinds of information..

  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Friday March 03, 2017 @01:41PM (#53970563)
    The biggest problem is how cards for categories were handled. Procedures were simply flawed in that it became possible for cards for already-announced categories to make their way into later presentations.

    If I understand correctly, there are two sets of identical cards, so that whichever side the stage is entered-from, the relevant card can be handed to the presenter as they pass. This procedure is flawed. It does not automatically deprecate out a card when that card is used.

    There are several ways to correct this procedure. Easiest method is to simply provide the cards to the presenters at a single controlled point, and to collect the spent cards from the presenters at another controlled point. To do this then all presenters either need to enter the stage from the same side, or else the cards need to be given to the presenters at a common place that all presenters must pass through prior to getting backstage to pick which side they enter from. If the Academy wants to prevent anyone from opening the cards between this common handout point and the stage, then they need to provide security or escort from that point to the wings of the stage. If the presenters are able to leave by either side, the escorts take the card and deposit it into a locked box similarly to how ballots are collected, where the card is slid into the box and can't be retrieved without cutting the zip-tie. This prevents casual accidental return of the used card back to the source. It would be simple enough to use this egress method at both sides of the stage, such that it doesn't really matter how they leave, the cards are collected and securely taken out of circulation.

    Typography wouldn't really matter if this was done properly.
    • But you know, if I had two envelopes left in my hand, I would stare at both of them good and hard to be sure I was handing the right one to Warren Beatty. And even after he left I'd keep checking to make sure I had the no-longer-needed Best Actress card in my hand. What they need is someone with a decent case of OCD.
      • by arth1 ( 260657 )

        And if I were Waren Beatty, I would have read the outside of the envelope before opening it. Out loud.

        But this is 2017, why are we using envelopes?

    • If I understand correctly, there are two sets of identical cards, so that whichever side the stage is entered-from, the relevant card can be handed to the presenter as they pass. This procedure is flawed. It does not automatically deprecate out a card when that card is used.

      Not so quick. The duplicate cards are also part of their error correction in case something goes wrong with the cards. The reason why the woman also got fired is she was on the other side of the stage, knowing who the real winner was, also with a correct card. Her job was to notice the error, go to the stage, tell them the mistake, and give them the correct card (as the mistake could have been the wrong card in the correct envelope) before something really bad happens like the not-winners get on stage and g

    • There are several ways to correct this procedure.

      Thank you for correcting this procedure. Maybe next year we could spoil a yet unannounced winner instead of a past one and it will be much better.

      Typography wouldn't really matter if this was done properly.

      You've fallen into a typical trap that you think you have a procedure so perfect that an extra layer of defence against a fault is not needed. Procedures are among the least effective forms of control over any situation. By replacing one procedure with another you've just shuffled the failure points around.

      As it was there was great uncertainty on stage when the wr

    • If I understand correctly, there are two sets of identical cards, so that whichever side the stage is entered-from, the relevant card can be handed to the presenter as they pass.

      That's retarded. If they know in advance who the presenters are, they know in advance which side they'll be coming from.

      and to collect the spent cards from the presenters at another controlled point.

      What's the point in that? If the presenter sticks it in his pocket to keep for a souvenir it's not in the inbox, so it's not a proble

  • by exabrial ( 818005 ) on Friday March 03, 2017 @02:24PM (#53970901)
    Just saying, the sewage from a bunch of out-of-touch elitists has never really interested myself or a lot my fellow kind.
    • They don't. Fortunately the summary and article isn't about the Oscars, but rather about typography. Read it, you may learn something.

    • What on earth are you talking about? No film price in the world is less elitist and more commercial than the Oscars. It's an advertisement for (mostly) Hollywood actors and filmmakers, not some bunch 'out-of-touch elitists'. Most of them are ordinary, hard working people and don't even earn much money.
  • Front and back should have the category embossed in high contrast color to the background color. The readers shouldn't need to open the card to read the category their announcing the winner.
  • I dunno, I never taken any of these classes and haven't looked to see if such are available. I learned in early days of "publishing" in 1990s when a friend gave me the book "The PC is not a typewriter" by Robin Williams (not the comedian). This person has done publishing from linotype machines to desktop systems. One thing I learned from him is use minimum types of fonts so your publications don't look like ransom notes (the kind where sentences are formed from cutting out letters from various magazines and
  • The failure here isn't mostly that a card was designed wrong - that could happen for anyone briefly given the task of designing and printing up cards.

    The travesty is that a company that is presumably being paid MILLIONS of $ to do this job, was skating by with non-thinking process and doing deliberate testing and rethinking of the card design. They got lazy and assumed that every year, nothing goes wrong, so we don't need to be checking or improving what we do. (with regard to the actual big night's event, not saying there's not other work that goes into it)

    If something is that important, imagine what you should do to make it as bulletproof as possible - like you're designing cards that hold the nuclear launch codes upon which millions of lives depend. You would create a design and testing process that:

    - tested what would happen if some element of the card delivery / reading chain failed or was accidentally broken
    - tested different card typography and layout designs
    - tested the kinds of people who would be involved in delivering and reading the cards (e.g. blind people, old people, nearsighted people, drunk people, anyone who you'd likely encounter on the night)
    - etc, etc, etc.

    They got by for years without being rigorous about this part of their job, and this time it bit them in the ass. Don't get complacent.
  • Instead of trying to blame the whole fiasco on the PWC goons (who did fuck up, no doubt here), fire that idiot that designed those cards instead. This is simply beyond dumb.

    But lemme guess. "Oh, who's gonna see the cards anyway, no need to hire a professional. My secretary can do that on our trip to the ceremony."

  • I though about this for three minutes, when I discovered all the shit dripping off the fan the morning after.

    A simple photograph (or gallery) of person (or people) expected to mount the stage would be the best sanity check. Our visual systems are way better equipped to get a slice of primary this-can't-be-right cognition for a celebrity in the hot light feeling watched by a hundred million people.

    Yes, you could still end up with the same visual on two different cards, say an actor or actress nominated in t

    • by epine ( 68316 )

      Here's another one.

      If you're already reconceiving the card as an eBay click-bait eternal keepsake, you could go so far as to turn the card into a stiff menu-like pop-up book, where an Oscar (in actual gold leaf) pops up when the card is opened (plus sundry visual security clues as per my parent post).

      Cards would be made for all nominees (to maintain information symmetry during the process).

      For the losers, the gold-leaf Oscar pop-up is replaced by a sultry Michigan J. Frog [akamaihd.net] (who actually sings, if we want to

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