Type Battle 38 // Man vs Machine

Justin Styler's picture

Draw a font for captchas that humans can read and machines can't.
About captchas: http://www.captcha.net/

Winner take all, no holds barred. May the best designer win.


- Image size: 550 width x 400 height. 72 dpi*
- Color: Black and White
- Format: JPG or PNG (make sure there are no spaces in the name)

*Please try to keep your file sizes to a minimum! 50k per file max.


This is your chance to stretch your type muscles on a weekly basis. You have one week to create and submit your entry. Anyone may submit a design response to the challenge. You may enter as often as you wish. Post anytime. Critiques and comments are welcome throughout the game, from participants and spectators alike. Smack talk is encouraged.

As with any street battle, there is no panel of judges and no prize — only the ability to call yourself the best on the block.

Link directly to this battle: http://www.typophile.com/battle38
Link to the battle directory: http://www.typophile.com/typebattles

Joe Pemberton's picture

So far the machines are winning...

Thomas Levine's picture

reCAPTCHA is the solution to the prompt; if computer's couldn't read it, they can't read it.

aaronbell's picture

Well, reCAPTCHA takes advantage of the fact that there is inherent distortion and reduction of quality of letterforms via the fact they were created before digital fonts and then scanned afterwards. In addition, they add further distortion to create variable letter forms. Now, while it is well done and puts captcha efforts to good use, there are still potentially interesting results that can be created via this contest.

So, is it possible to create a font that humans can read but computers can't (or have extreme difficulty with) without the added benefits conferred via reCAPTCHA? Ultimately, nothing we create will be able to stand up to a program written specifically for that font, but there is still plenty of room for creativity and kooky concepts.

Joe Pemberton's picture

That's like saying the solution to a faulty deadbolt is a chain lock. reCaptcha is a hack because Captcha is such a lousy experience.

Aaron you're right. You said what everybody here was thinking. The key in a battle though is to create the kooky concepts. The machines will catch up. They always eventually do.

Thomas Levine's picture

Wow, I only just noticed my disgustingly wrong possessive that I unfortunately can't fix.

My point about reCAPTCHA is just that it uses the words that computers had difficulty with. The exact reason why the computers had the difficulty is separate.

And now I should come up with a real answer.

1985's picture

This is the most interesting premise for a battle yet!

Scalfin's picture

Can we nominate someone else? I ask because I'm pretty sure fatbob's optical illusion type could be a strong contender.

bijuneyyan's picture


here's a machine-looking font that the machines are possibly going to have a hard time trying to make sense of..

by the way, you can download this font from fontstruct for free..

bijuneyyan's picture

I just tried an OCR over the same image i posted above and this was the result:

“LPTLH i a program that prori wrhr again bu bq grnrraing and grading Uia Iiuman an pai bu Lurrvn Lompurr programs LannoL For rsampIr1 humans an rrad dorrd r?t a hr onr hoiiin Li[’10L1J1 bu Lurr[’n Lompurr programs Lan’:’—LapLha.

The computer was still able to recognize some of the words pretty nicely.. hmm....
and interestingly, the machine read "humans" correctly .. he he he :)

Gimme suggestions..

eliason's picture

My OCR program (OmniPage) read this as:

CNA 4TIP 71, m, 7, ~'am&?" irmct,.g ime..

y ' Y %t ˆ

19 1 & Lt rni 1 #1/ AM4 /, A.1 /AVJ. S

Adw v -ka

grelo ad))§elo ttll)4062cpo 010,

nina's picture

Craig, that is smart. An impressively simple solution!

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Related, though probably to easily read.

aaronbell's picture

Wow, the responses are coming in already! I better get going on mine...

Craig's is just great — clean, simple and probably extremely difficult for a computer to manage effectively.

William Berkson's picture

Good idea Craig!

pica pusher's picture

Loving these solutions!

Can anybody point to an effective site to test whether a font is machine-readable or not?

chrisherron's picture

Props to Paul Rand

fiestoforo's picture

This is my try. The idea is to deceive the program by giving false input.
Readers may be advised to type the letters they see in white.
Done in inkscape.

pica pusher's picture

This is built from Myriad, so not really valid for the contest, but I'm interested as to how well it would work to confuse OCR:

oprion's picture

Dulcius ex asperis
Personal Art and Design Portal of Ivan Gulkov

bijuneyyan's picture

@pica pusher,
that was nice.. simple and looks like it's gonna work big time...( didnt try though)

just look at the picture with an eye as if a strong wind is there on your face... you'll come to know (why it was easily recognized by the computer when i tested)...

may be you should play a little with the size and weight of the negative text... but i think the OCRs will still tend to 'join the dots' to read the blacks...

-- eliason's was also a killer idea.. simple but it works!

Jongseong's picture

Bijuneyyan, the whole point of fiestoforo's entry is that the reader should input the negative text, not the black. So the text easily recognized by the computer is not the correct text...

bijuneyyan's picture

oops!... sorry!

Vladimir Tamari's picture

You get the idea - apologies for the flicker - I could not create a smooth animation! HEALTH WARNING: STARING AT HIGH-CONTRAST FLICKERING IMAGES MAY CAUSE EPILEPTIC FITS FOR SOME INDIVIDUALS...so please scroll away!

TATTOOFONT3D's picture

Can we beat the machines?
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sardiez's picture

The human perception rules


Thomas Levine's picture

The dots and lines in these wonderful responses could be replaced with characters.

diana's picture

Machine read dialoge, men read movie title

henrypijames's picture

I'd like to nominate Optica Normal, one of the TDC2 2009 winners. It's barely readable even for human:


dtw's picture

Ouch. My eyes hurt.

Sidney's picture

The one from henrypijames really had me trippin behind my desk, great concept face! But why do all these captchas need to be so decorative (with a few exeptions).

Franc isco's picture

That's only an idea.

henrypijames's picture

A paper shredder and some dirt:

Michael Hernan's picture

Both Lose.

Michael Hernan

thinkDM2's picture

thought this would work, tested it so far, thought I would upload a quick example. not designing a font, just using a very readable one in a way an OCR wouldn't be able to read it.

Guad's picture

first stab...

Guad's picture

another one all based on the same negative/positive idea. I don't think captcha can read it...

aluminum's picture

I think we're designing prettier CAPTCHAs rather than better CAPTCHAs. Which is great as I don't think there *is* such a thing as a better CAPTCHA.

danburzo's picture


This is an interesting thread, I would have loved to be here when there was more action. I thought I'd add a technical perspective to the game:

1. Clever fonts for captcha don't work. You can instruct the program to look for certain patterns in the text so as long as those don't change, it's really not complicated to break the captcha
2. Animated captchas don't work either because you can easily extract and merge all frames in a GIF.

So the only valid concept thus far is to have a set of rules from which you can generate fairly different shapes so that a single program cannot deduce the rules.

Sulekha Rajkumar's picture

Hi. I'm new here. Just wanted to know when the next challenge will be up. Is it monthly?

xXOXx's picture

When the robots take over, we will need to cipher all messages by inventing new fonts — most lasting 17hrs before enemy algorithms decode.

BlueTypo's picture

Hi, this is Miniblock another illegible font :)

bijuneyyan's picture


The best was Michael Hernan's (userone) post!.. :P kudos!

BlueTypo's picture

What do you think about Optica Negative...

francis bold's picture

Never done ones of these battles before, so i thought i'd give it a go.

xpome's picture

smth i did for abc book this year:]

matthew_desmond's picture

Just a bitmap/gestalt type idea here. Kidding with the whole Blackletter thing, heh. Although, you could use unconventional forms like blackletter or script to fool computers I would think. It would make it hard on people, though. I can barely make out the letters in some of those captchas.

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