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).


10 Answers 10


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.

  • 2
    Don't you dare call Univers 'helveticy'! BLASPHEMOUS!
    – DA01
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 3:49

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.

alt text

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:


alt text

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

alt text

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

alt text

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

  • 1
    Thanks - I'll check it out, although it's quite close to Frutiger and probably a bit too 'friendly'/'warm'.
    – e100
    Commented Jan 23, 2011 at 12:53
  • +1 Is Myriad and Myriad Pro the same? I like the latter. :)
    – JFW
    Commented Jan 23, 2011 at 13:14
  • @JFW: I think the difference there is who the foundry for that particular font is. We have both in-house, but one is Adobe and the other is another foundry I don't recall at the moment. Myriad Pro is most likely Adobe's OTF implementation, and that's the one that I use all the time. Commented Jan 23, 2011 at 13:16
  • 3
    Myriad and Myriad Pro are both Adobe; "Pro" is used to indicate an OTF (OpenType) version which uses the extra features allowed of that format, e.g contextual alternates.
    – e100
    Commented Feb 8, 2011 at 16:50
  • 1
    And all this time I thought Myriad was only popular because Illustrator defaults to it... ;)
    – Farray
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 7:03

A good free alternative is TeX Gyre Heros - you can get it from Font Squirrel. I'm a Windows user, so I end up relying on this one quite a lot. The only downside is that you're limited to Regular, Italic, Bold and Bold Italic and their condensed varieties, so if you're looking for a variety in weight, this might not be the one for you.

I hope this helps!

TeX Gyre Heros TeX Gyre Heros


Free Alternative

If you want a free alternative that's pretty robust, try Roboto:

Roboto Screenshot

Here's a comparison between the two - to be clear, this is Google's Helvetica, and while I still prefer the original, this is a nice alternative. And, it looks great on a screen, which isn't always the case with OSX's Helveticas. It also comes with a Condensed and Slab variant as well.

Paid Alternative

If you would like a paid alternative, try Neue Haas Grotesk:

Neue Haas Grotesk screenshot

Here's some comparisons between the two. I've not ever used this one personally but it looks great and is a robust font set.

Dalton Maag made their own version (apparently out of a love for Univers and a hatred for Helvetica, as this Creative Review article details) called Aktiv Grotesk:

Aktiv Grotesk screenshot

Finally, one more I wanted to add in is Akzidenz Grotesk - it's sort of the father of Helvetica so it's worthy of inclusion (BQ version shown below, available here):

Akzidenx Grotesk screenshot

News/Trade Gothic are grotesques as well, but they're not Swiss in nature, so I don't think they're true alternatives. However, if you're looking for something that's more of a cousin than a brother or son, they might fit the bill.


Helvetica's closest cousins would include:

  • Helvetica Neue
  • Nimbus Sans
  • Akzidenz-Grotesk (this one is maybe more of an uncle)

FontShop has a nice article listing several relatives from their offerings:



There's a few hints, but not a lot of information in your question as to why you're wanting a Helvetica-like typeface but not Helvetica. You want something "generic" looking? But yet you want type aficionados to wonder what you chose? Sounds like conflicting goals. But nothing too geometric and friendly…

I'm going to go with the "ubiquitous" look. News Gothic is a classic used for much of the early 20th century in advertising, newspaper and magazine publishing, etc. It's more compact than Helvetica but I think that's an advantage when making a poster. You'll probably want to use the bold version to look sufficiently Helvetica-ish.

News Gothic Bold Sample

News Gothic Bold was used in ABBA's distinctive logo:


  • There isn't any real "why" because this was designed as a sample "font recommendation" question! But answer is good.
    – e100
    Commented Feb 8, 2011 at 16:52

Recent and oh so stylish is the finally found (in a pile of old typeface designs) Neue Haas Unica designed by Team '77 back when computers were big as houses. There is a detailed brochure about the design considerations: From Helvetica to Haas Unica

Haas Unica vs Helvetica

Neue Haas Unica vs Helvetica 1 Neue Haas Unica vs Helvetica 2

Neue Haas Unica examples

Neue Haas Unica examples



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are similar Alternatives i think


Try Lucida Sans and Verdana - Verdana looks better in small sizes. They're both pretty neat as they don't stick together too much and are easy to read. I don't think they seem Helvetica clones in any way tho' - I'd have to grab my typographers manual for that but I have no idea where I put it ;D

  • I think these are more useful as screen fonts, Verdana as you say for small text, and aren't really close enough to Helvetica.
    – e100
    Commented Jan 23, 2011 at 12:32

I really like Bebas and it seems to be coming in and overruling Helvetica in the world of design.


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  • Please edit your answer with a screenshot of the font.
    – user9447
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 19:36
  • But how do you think it is visually similar or different to Helvetica Neue? Commented May 8, 2014 at 5:37
  • Well it is very crisp and simple, which I'd argue is the whole reason Helvetica ever became as popular as it did. It's very easy to read. It also comes with several different weights that become incredibly useful. I'm mocking up a new logo for myself right now and the typography is just different weights of Bebas. The only problem I've run into it it is only in all caps, which can become problematic in design. :/ Commented May 9, 2014 at 14:50
  • 1
    This must be a joke.
    – lmlmlm
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 18:32

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