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Futura Alternatives

Futura is a classic, but it’s not always the right choice. Consider these other geometric sans serifs.

Stephen Coles
Last edited September 13, 2017

Overused typefaces can lose their impact, especially where originality is important. Here are some quality geometric sans serifs that are less common than Futura. Some offer more weights, styles, and alternate glyphs for greater versatility than the old standby.

But first, let’s begin with three recommended Futura options among the many digital versions.

(Read more about Futura and its followers, including many of the typefaces on this list, in Ferdinand Ulrich’s excellent history.)

No burning enter this place

Kabel was part of the first wave of Futura followers, but offered a very original flavor of its own. Straight strokes end on an angle, there are several uncommon shapes (Q, W, b, e, f), and the unique ‘a’ and ‘g’ integrate the circle into 2-story forms. (ITC Kabel offers the ballooned x-height typical of that foundry’s interpretations. I wish there was a Kabel with proportions between the original’s and ITC’s.)

The first cuts of Kabel appeared in 1927, released by the German foundry Gebr. Klingspor. Like many of the typefaces that Rudolf Koch... Read More

Slippery chicken hot pot young

Super Grotesk is the East German Futura. Major differences from Futura include the straight sided ‘G’, tailed ‘t’, and various angled terminals.

FF Super Grotesk draws from a 1930s design by Arno Drescher, easily the most popular sans serif in use in East Germany – the GDR’s... Read More

Every encounter keep treasure

Another revival of Arno Drescher’s Super Grotesk, but not as well drawn as FF Super Grotesk, in my opinion. The “Small Sizes” style, however, with its large x-height, short extenders, and deep ink traps, is interesting and unique among the revivals.

Math is easy, design is hard

Continuing on the Super Grotesk line, Superla is based on the 1980s adaption of the typeface for phototype use. It is a much smoother design than the quirky metal originals. It also adds extra styles at the extremes of the weight spectrum (the Black is especially funky). Overall, a very functional and underused contemporary alternative to Futura.

Piglet rising and falling in front

Bitstream’s version of Neuzeit Grotesk. The proportions and various ink-gain compensations indicate that it is probably based on a smaller metal size. Only two weights versus URW’s four.

All children have brain damage

FontFont’s new release is inspired by models that came before Futura, such as Erbar and Neuzeit Grotesk, but its main goal is modern usability. This means versatile proportions (suitable for sizes where Futura falters), a large range of weights and typographic extras, and exemplary screen performance.

FF Mark is one of the most iconic geometric sans serif typefaces of our time. Created by German type designers Hannes von Döhren,... Read More

Please no bomb into the ash here

Bitstream’s Metro revival includes italics.

Smile while you still have teeth

This major revival and expansion from 2013 is by far the most complete digital version of Metro. It reintroduces the more unusual glyphs from the original Metro No. 1 while retaining as alternates all the others found in No. 2.

Hell: one way in and no way out

Akira Kobayashi’s very loose interpretation of Metro, designed for Linotype’s “Office” series in which every font has the same character widths, allowing easy changes without text reflow.

Every year, more and more text is read directly on a computer screen in office applications, or from freshly printed sheets from a copier... Read More

Caution to download the steps

A copy of Futura made for the U.S. market. The metal face was commonly used in the 1940s–60s but it has mostly fallen into obscurity since then. This is an interesting option if you want Futura with a little wonkiness, but use with care: the spacing/kerning needs a lot of help.

Twentieth Century was designed and drawn by Sol Hess in the Lanston Monotype drawing office between 1936 and 1947. The first weights were... Read More

Grandiose inhabitation project

Now synonymous with 1990s typography, Brody’s Bauhaus-inspired design has a variety of distinctive characteristics, including round, spurless forms (m, u), pointed apexes (M, M, V, W), and ornamental crossbars (A, B, E, F, K, P, R, k).

Insignia™ was designed by British graphic design guru Neville Brody, originally as a headline face for Arena magazine in 1986, and... Read More

What is the sound of shit happening?

A revised and expanded Avenir, with small caps, redesigned true italics, a new range of condensed weights, and more language support. Also new is a Rounded variant in four weights.

No tails in the disorder please

A more recent design in the Humanist/Geometric tradition of Avenir, but with more simplified forms overall. Differences include square dots, abrupt junctions where curves meet stems, and an ‘s’ that leans ever more forward as the weights increase. (I am not sure if this last characteristic is a virtue.)

Go ahead, make my day

A contemporary creation made to emulate an antique feeling, with its soft contours, low x-height, and long extenders.

Houston, we have a problem

Responding to the popularity of his Brandon Grotesque, von Döhren released this variant with proportions optimized for smaller type.

Slip away the hot chicken slice

A deliberately mechanical typeface, Ano is a headline system in which styles are designed to match stroke weight at a variety of sizes for an appealing graphic effect.

Smoking is friend of mental activity

Similar in style to Geometria. Equip has the advantage of multiple widths and a slab serif companion.

Who loves me, loves my dog too

FF Bauer Grotesk breathes new digital life into the metal type “Friedrich Bauer Grotesk”, a 1933 release by the Trennert & Sohn type foundry in Hamburg Altona, Germany. Its geometric construction infused with an art déco zeitgeist tied to the era, is closely related to such famous German designs as Futura, Erbar, Kabel and Super Grotesk which a few years earlier. Bauer Grotesk stands out by... Read More

Rudolf Koch
Linotype 1928
Svend Smital
FontFont 1999
Arno Drescher and Nicolai Gogoll
Bitstream 1930
Ole Schäfer and Karl-Heinz Lange
primetype 2009
Wilhelm Pischner
Hannes von Döhren, Christoph Koeberlin and FontFont Type Department
FontFont 2006
William Addison Dwiggins
William Addison Dwiggins and Toshi Omagari
Linotype 1930
Akira Kobayashi and William Addison Dwiggins
Linotype 2006
Sol Hess
Monotype 1959
Neville Brody
Linotype 1989
Adrian Frutiger, Akira Kobayashi, Nadine Chahine, Anuthin Wongsunkakon, Monotype.Design Studio, Yanek Iontef, Toshi Omagari, Aleksei Chekulaev, Akaki Razmadze and Elena Papassissa
Linotype 2003
Wolfgang Homola
TypeTogether 2015
Hannes von Döhren
HVD Fonts
Hannes von Döhren
HVD Fonts 2012
Gareth Hague
Alias 2010
Dieter Hofrichter
Hoftype 2013
Felix Bonge and Thomas Ackermann
FontFont 2014