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This article was published on May 17, 2012

30 of The Best Alternatives to Helvetica

30 of The Best Alternatives to Helvetica
Harrison Weber
Story by

Harrison Weber

Harrison Weber is TNW's Features Editor in NYC. Part writer, part designer. Stay in touch: Twitter @harrisonweber, Google+ and Email. Harrison Weber is TNW's Features Editor in NYC. Part writer, part designer. Stay in touch: Twitter @harrisonweber, Google+ and Email.

Helvetica is a tried and true typeface. It’s a testament to Swiss design culture, with its clarity, flexibility and outright perfection. This famous typeface is loved for countless reasons, including its ability to take on any feeling, emotion or imagery, which it can do simply because it has no personality of its own.

Helvetica deserves our utmost respect, but there’s a problem with Helvetica that needs calling out: too many designers are permanently stuck on it, and that’s a disservice to every other sans-serif typeface out there.

And so, to help you begin exploring the endless alternatives that exist in the world of type, Typecache, an independent online compendium for Typography, has teamed up with TNW to create this list…

30 must-see Helvetica alternatives:

1. Neue Haas Grotesk


2. Chalet 1960


3. Akkurat


4. Theinhardt


5. New Rail Alphabet


6. Graphik


7. Galaxie Polaris


8. Replica


9. Suisse BP Int’l


10. Fakt


11. Aktiv Grotesk


12. ARS Region


13. Relevant


14. Synthese


15. Neutral


16. National


17. Founders Grotesk


18. FF Bau


19. ARS Maquette


20. Encore Sans


21. Embarcadero MVB

22. Paralucent


23. Gedau Gothic


24. Supria Sans


25. Akzidenz Grotesk


26. Bureau Grot


27. Knockout


28. Parry Grotesque


29. Titling Gothic


30 Tablet Gothic


About this list

While we were at it, we also spent a little time talking with Typecache cofounder Taro Yumiba to learn more about the site, and how this list came to be:

HW: Why did you create this list of alternatives?

Yumiba: Obviously Helvetica is overused and we think designers are constantly looking for alternative typefaces to replace it. However, I am not surprised to hear that designers often give up on finding one and just go for Helvetica. It is almost becoming a default or a given option as a San Serif font. We think that finding a good typeface is part of the designers’ job, and through the list, we would like our fellow designers to explore other options so that they can start embracing all typefaces.

HW: What can these fonts offer that Helvetica doesn’t?

Yumiba: Each face is different. There are so many different characteristics to the shapes of letters, too. We cannot describe every single difference of those alternatives, but there are many better typefaces than Helvetica, so why not try using them? (Don’t get me wrong Helvetica is not bad.)

HW:  Should designers balance the use of highly popular fonts with lesser known ones for variation?

Yumiba: I don’t think it is necessary, but I would rather see designers that try lesser known fonts than ones that just stick to whatever popular typefaces is out there. However, the bottom line is that it’s all about choosing and using a typeface that works best in the context where it is used. That makes a great difference.

HW: Lastly, could you tell us a little bit about Typecache?

Yumiba: There are many great type foundries around the world. It has been really difficult to keep up with the activities of every single one of them…so why not collect their information and make an online compendium?

This is how we started the project. As typographic literacy grows, the site will hopefully be a useful resource for designers, art directors and type enthusiasts.

For more, check out Typecache’s complete “font cluster” of Helvetica alternatives — there are 90 total alternatives! The team has created an impressive list of Din alternatives, as well.

➤ Typecache