steve harveySteve Marcus/Reuters

There's no denying Steve Harvey misread the cue card at Sunday's Miss Universe contest, but whether it's the card's fault or Harvey's alone is still a matter of debate.

In case you missed it, the competition ended on the most awkward note possible.

Shortly after host Steve Harvey announced Miss Colombia had won the title, Harvey realized he'd read the ballot card wrong. In fact, Miss Philippines was the winner. Miss Colombia was the first runner-up.

After the contest ended, photographs surfaced on the internet of the ballot card, suggesting poor design could've caused the error.

But after speaking with Steven Heller, a former art director at the New York Times, we aren't so sure the card deserves the blame.

Heller says the only real bone you could throw Harvey is that the winner's name wasn't positioned below the first two contestants. That would have been more symmetrical and possibly easier to read.

"In any case, it's not so much the design, which is straightforward enough," Heller says. "You cannot blame the card he was reading."

Debbie Millman is willing to cut Harvey a little more slack.

Millman, who serves as head of the branding department at the School of Visual Arts and wrote "Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits," says "it is a sad state of affairs when information graphics do more harm than good for something so innocuous" as the Miss Universe contest.

In an email to Tech Insider, Millman explains how the card should have been designed:

The whole card should have been reversed, but all printed flush LEFT. The fact that the first two were flush left and the winner was flush right was the reason for the confusion. It was similar with the butterfly ballot of 2000; people didn't understand the order in which they were reading things.

Up first should have been MISS UNIVERSE; 1st runner up should have been next, and then 2nd runner-up. It would be clear that the order should be read from bottom to top and the winner is at the top.

Heller does acknowledge the "runner-up" system could be confusing, especially if the first runner-up's name is far away from the actual winner. But it's a system that has been in place for decades.

"I can see where Mr. Harvey would be confused," Heller concedes. "But I would have assumed he'd rehearsed prior."