Helvetica is one of the world’s most recognizable typefaces. Originally named Neue Haas Grotesk, Helvetica was created in 1957 by designer Max Miedinger with input from Eduard Hoffman (its name was changed 4 years later when it was licensed by Linotype). Helvetica quickly rose to prominence because of its legibility and versatility. 50 years later, it’s still going strong. In 2007, Gary Hustwit released a critically-acclaimed feature-length documentary (called “Helvetica”) about its impact and influence on the world of design.
But familiarity often breeds contempt.
Erik Spiekermann said “People use Helvetica because it’s ubiquitous. It’s like going to McDonalds instead of thinking about food.”
Wolfgang Weingart went a step further: “Anyone who uses Helvetica knows nothing about typefaces.”
Other well-known designers were not quite as harsh.
Steff Geissbuhler called Helvetica “still the most versatile, classic, and readable of all typefaces.”
And Hamish Muir joked that “We hate to like Helvetica.”
So…if you’re a designer, you might be looking for fonts like Helvetica that aren’t so overused. Good news! Our friends at Identifont, Fontspring, Typewolf, and MyFonts recommended several similar grotesk sans-serif typefaces that we’ve assembled here to help you broaden your design pallette:
Created by the URW++ foundry in 1995 as an alternative to Helvetica, Nimbus Sans serves as an effective Helvetica doppelgänger.
Identifont did a side-by-side comparison of the two. Have a look for yourself!
Inspired by Helvetica, Pragmatica was designed at ParaType (ParaGraph) in 1989 by Vladimir Yefimov (later styles were developed by Olga Chaeva, Alexander Tarbeev, and Manvel Shmavonyan with participation from Dmitry Kirsanov).
Again, practically identical to Helvetica and Nimbus Sans.
Designed by Jeremie Hornus, Volkart is a Latin-script typeface that was published by Indian Type Foundry in 2015.
Looking for some options that aren’t so close to the vest? Richard Turgeon wrote this great piece about Helvetica alternatives that feel “modern, classic, and universal” without being quite so similar.
Stag Sans (Commercial Type)
Open Sans (Google Fonts)
Proxima Nova (Mark Simonson)
Effra (Jonas Schudel)
Aktiv Grotesk (Bruno Maag)
LFT Etica (TypeTogether)
Franklin Gothic URW T (URW++)
News Gothic (Bitstream)
So there you have it—several typefaces that are remarkably similar to Helvetica and a few that deviate a bit but still serve the same purpose.
Want to know more about which typefaces are currently the “most loved” or “most hated” by experts in the design industry? Check out James Kidwell’s informative and entertaining Trends In Typography Survey.