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Oscars Flub: Was the Academy’s New Envelope Design Partly to Blame? (Photos)

After six years, The Academy changed the design — and designer — of the envelopes used on the show

One possible explanation for the backstage confusion that led to the epic screw-up of the Best Picture envelopes at Sunday’s Academy Awards: the new design for the envelopes themselves.

The dark red envelope opened by Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, from which they announced the wrong Best Picture winner, was a new envelope design for the show, TheWrap has learned.

Invitation designer Marc Friedland and his company, Couture Communications, had designed the previous high-contrast gold envelopes for the last six Oscar ceremonies, going back to 2011.

The Academy’s deal with Friedland did not continue or renew for 2017. The reason for the change was unclear as of the time of this publishing.

And the new design — in which the category name is not nearly as prominent or legible — may have contributed to the backstage confusion that led to the historic mix-up.

PwC accountants hold duplicate sets of winning envelopes on each side of the stage, and PwC released a statement late Sunday indicating that one of its accountants handed the presenters the second (unused) Best Actress envelope containing Emma Stone’s win, instead of one of the two Best Picture envelopes.

But the gold lettering-on-red envelope (seen here in the image with Dunaway and Beatty) may have been harder to read in a darkened backstage area than previous designs.

Just how different are the new envelopes from the ones used for the last six years and designed by Friedman (a the go-to paper invite guy in Hollywood who’s created invites for Oprah Winfrey and John Travolta’s birthday parties)?

Consider the photographic evidence from previous shows, where the categories are printed in easy-to-read black on white-matte labels placed on gold envelopes.

A view of Oscar envelopes being desgined at the studios of Couture Communications, photographed by TheWrap in 2013.

The exterior of the Oscar envelope from 2011-2017 had a clear category designation on the outside. These replica envelopes, identical to the ones used in the show, but re-created for a media event, were photographed in 2013 at the studio of the Academy’s former third-party designer, Couture Communications in Los Angeles. (Mikey Glazer)

Here’s another example from 2013:

2013 Best Actor Cards

A view of the former outer envelope design with the clear category designation (bottom right) as photographed in 2013. The cards pictured here are replica cards, made by Friedland for  “media day” at his studio, are identical to the ones used in the 2013 telecast, but are not the actual ones from that show.


The last time the Academy used an alternate design was 2010. Though the exterior envelope was white, it still displayed the category name more clearly than the envelope handed to Beatty and Dunaway.

onstage during the 82nd Annual Academy Awards held at Kodak Theatre on March 7, 2010 in Hollywood, California.

2010: The last time the non-gold envelope was used. Tom Hanks presented Best Picture to “The Hurt Locker.” (Getty Images)

In a close up, that Best Picture envelope from two versions ago had the same high-contrast category name (“Best Picture”) on the outside.

2010 Best Picture Envelope

In 2011 the gold envelopes with the category matte began:

onstage during the 83rd Annual Academy Awards held at the Kodak Theatre on February 27, 2011 in Hollywood, California.

2011: Steven Spielberg presents Best Picture to “The King’s Speech.” (Getty Images)

2012 - The Artist

2012: The gold Best Picture envelope revealed “The Artist.”


WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 24: In this handout provided by The White House, First lady Michelle Obama announces the Best Picture Oscar to Argo for the 85th Annual Academy Awards live from the Diplomatic Room of the White House February 24, 2012 in Washington, DC. Obama revealed the award via satellite for the live show being held in Los Angeles. (Photo by Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images)

2013: The Best Picture surprise was Michelle Obama presenting from the White House. Same gold envelope. “Argo” won. (The White House)


HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 02: Actor Will Smith speaks onstage during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre on March 2, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

2014: Will Smith presents Best Picture to “12 Years a Slave.” (Getty Images)

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 22: Actor Sean Penn speaks onstage during the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on February 22, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

2015; Sean Penn presents Best Picture to “Birdman.” (Getty Images)

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 28: Actor Morgan Freeman speaks onstage during the 88th Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

2016: Morgan Freeman presents to “Spotlight.” (Getty Images)

The Academy has over a year to figure out the next generation of the famed Oscar envelope. The 90th Oscars will take place on March 4, 2018.

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