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Helvetica Alternatives

Stephen Coles
Last edited May 04, 2016

Helvetica is a classic. Helvetica is played out. Both of these statements are true to an extent. There are many reasons why Helvetica is so widespread. The most obvious being that that font has been bundled with the Mac OS for years. It is arguably the most respectable of the “default” fonts. But it’s also used because it’s a safe, neutral choice. Even its ubiquity contributes to its neutrality — letters so common they become invisible.

But invisibility isn’t always appropriate, particularly where individuality is key. Here are typefaces from the Grotesque genre that offer something different from Helvetica — whether it’s style, warmth, or extra features like small caps, figure alternates, and additional widths.

Find fonts similar to Helvetica in this Fontlist. To download a font, clicking its name will take you to the family page where you can choose and purchase single weights or volumes. For free fonts see our Free Fonts Fontlist.

That square is top of cool shape

Despite all the substitutes, sometimes the old reliable is still the best bet. Neue (German for “New”) Helvetica is the most complete and usable set of Helvetica fonts, but the doesn’t make it the best — many compromises were made to the original design over the years.

In 1983, D. Stempel AG redesigned the famous Helvetica typeface for the digital age, creating Neue Helvetica for Linotype: a... Read More

This shop does not receive the dog

This revival of Helvetica predecessor has a double-storey ‘g’. The lowercase ‘a’ keeps its tail in all weights. Optional oldstyle figures.

FF Bau is a large workhorse family of sans serif typefaces drawn in the “Grotesk” genre. Christian Schwartz is its designer, working... Read More

The best things in life are furry

How it’s not Helv: angled stroke endings (‘S’, ‘C’, ‘e’) that open up the counters and add life. Taller ascenders lend elegance.

Basic Commercial is a font based on historical designs from the hot metal typeface era. It first appeared around 1900, and was created by... Read More

Simulated meat floss biscuits

How it’s not Helv: Key differences are in ‘a’, ‘G’, and ‘Q’. Warmer and more irregular overall.

Do not spit too loud, thank you

A contemporary take on Neuzeit S better suited for text.

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

Stay hungry, stay foolish

In 1990, Gerd Wunderlich revisited Univers and created this slightly more contemporary option.

Stuff in palm treasure crayfish

Neue Haas Unica™ is Monotype’s revival of a typeface that has attained almost mythical status in the type community. Unica® was an attempt to create the ultimate sans-serif – a hybrid of Helvetica, Univers and Akzidenz Grotesk. Designed by André Gürtler Read More

Design munificent assemblaged

This modernization of 19th-century Gothics is much warmer than Helvetica (especially in its italics) but it’s still spare in form.

Slip away the hot chicken slice

How it’s not Helv: Like Adelle Sans, FF Dagny recalls earlier Grots that are less uniform.

FF Dagny is a spare sans serif drawn in the “grotesk” style. In 2002, Sweden’s largest daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN) changed from... Read More

Tether even a roasted chicken

Delightfully irregular, a type that shows signs of rough cut metal.

Typefaces without serifs were known in nineteenth-century England as Grotesque (or Grotesk in German) because they seemed so unusual to... Read More

A friction is very interesting

Another nod to turn-of-the-20th-century Grots, though less idiosyncratic than Maple and Bureau Grot.

Let us do the birds friend

Another nod to turn-of-the-20th-century Grots, though less idiosyncratic than Maple and Bureau Grot.

Tablet Gothic from Veronika Burian and José Scaglione of TypeTogether makes brilliant harmony of two disparate grotesque models in a... Read More

Please do not get over it

FF Real was originally conceived by Erik Spiekermann as one text weight and one headline weight to be used as the only fonts in his biography ‘Hello I am Erik’, edited by Johannes Erler, and published in 2014. While Spiekermann drew the alphabets, he passed on the font data to Ralph du Carrois who cleaned it up and completed it. In the meantime FF Real has been extended to a family of two... Read More

Dried ball bursts into rage

Classic Grotesque by Rod McDonald:a traditional font with a modern face An update of Monotype Grotesque that was first published in 1926, Rod McDonald's Classic Grotesque combines both traditional and contemporary elements of typography. With its many fascinating details, Classic Grotesque is at home in print and web designs.The growing popularity of grotesque typefaces meant that many new sans... Read More

Max Miedinger and Linotype Design Studio
Linotype 1957
Christian Schwartz
FontFont 2002
Linotype Design Studio
Linotype 1900

Akira Kobayashi and Linotype Design Studio
Linotype 1966
Gert Wunderlich
Elsner+Flake 1970
Toshi Omagari
Linotype 2014
Veronika Burian and José Scaglione
TypeTogether 2012
Örjan Nordling and Göran Söderström
FontFont 2009
Steve Matteson, Frank Hinman Pierpont, Monotype.Design Studio and Frank
Monotype 1926
Hannes von Döhren
HVD Fonts
Veronika Burian and José Scaglione
TypeTogether 2012
Erik Spiekermann, Ralph du Carrois and Anja Meiners
FontFont 2015
Rod McDonald
Monotype 2016