Visually similar alternatives to Helvetica?


I'd like to use something similar-but-different for my poster project.

I've already ruled out:

  • Arial
  • Avant Garde/Futura - too geometric
  • Frutiger - too humanist /'friendly'

I guess I'm looking for something that will be a close match in most of its shapes but will have enough points of difference to make people (OK, other designers) wonder what I've used. e.g. a single story 'a' or distinctly different 'g'.

Please include a visual example if possible, and include some reasons why each font would be a good choice; I'm after a smallish number of well-thought-out suggestions, and definitely not a bare list.

For Bounty

I (Ryan, whom is editing this) asked what is meant by dated. This was the response, Michael Lai gave me:

There have been questions about free alternatives to Helvetica and also similar fonts to Helvetica Neue, but the answers were based on available fonts from at least a couple years ago and I would like to know if there have been changes or new fonts since. Also, it is best to get a visual comparison between fonts if possible (e.g. by overlaying them over one another).

6/4/2014 7:56:00 PM

Accepted Answer

Folio Medium

  • counters in C, c and e have similarly closed feeling
  • bowls in a, b, d, g, p & q are relatively wider
  • arches in m & n are sharper
  • x-height slightly lower
  • slightly more condensed
  • distinct Q
  • has the Helvetica arrowyness in G and overall many similar letters

And as Philip Regan already pointed out:

Univers Medium

  • slightly wider, except a
  • x-height slightly lower
  • wider tracking
  • overall more modern, especially the distinct G and Q
  • counters in C and c are more open

Both have the same Helveticy firmness in the capital letters. Both also come in different flavours.

4/13/2017 12:46:00 PM

I like Myriad, and I've been using it a lot lately in my layouts. It is what Apple is currently using for all of its header text in their branding, and by casual observation I see it a lot in advertising in the UK.

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Myriad specimen

I think it offers the same readability and clean style as Helvetica, but with a bit of character that is more restrained than some of the others you mention in your question so it doesn't stand out too much. A good Myriad font will also offer nearly as many weights as Helvetica, so it has a lot of versatility.

UPDATE: I did a quick web search (slow morning) and came across an good article full of Helvetica alternatives that reminded me of some excellent alternatives that we use in my company's books all the time:


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Franklin Gothic (I see this a lot in newspapers):

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Interstate (It has character, but is still very neutral in tone):

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Now I'm a little disconcerted that I forgot about these.