Helvetica Alternatives. A Complete Guide.

Someone recently asked me what was my take on Helvetica these days and how it is still widely used as the default typeface.

My answer was: I don't dislike Helvetica as a typeface I just feel nowadays that there are quite a few (better) alternatives to this workhorse. In some ways, I feel using Helvetica shows a bit of creative laziness or plain lack of type knowledge.

In either case, look no further because I've created what I feel is a nearly complete list of alternative options for your good ol' Helvetica. In this list you'll find great alternatives that will set your designs apart while keeping that nice and clean Helvetica feel that we like so much.

To show you the different options in context and how they compare to Helvetica I have created a simple design that will remain the same throughout this exercise except for the typeface I will be showcasing. That way you guys can see in what way they subtly alter the same concept.


Initial Design with Helvetica Neue

Below is a simple design using Helvetica Neue in which you can see different text elements such as dates, body texts, symbols and titles.

The same design will be used with all the other typefaces presented here so you guys see exactly how they alter the design in subtle ways while keeping the same essence.

I also put together just a base of comparison for some letters and numbers. As we go along in this article you will see how the different typefaces compare to those specific letters. A great grotesk workhorse is often done with subtlety so most of these examples just have little tweaks in shapes and spacing to set them apart from Helvetica. Here is the layout we'll be using as a base comparison.


Without any further ado, here they are. You can play the compare game and explore the differences. 

Aktiv Grotesk by Dalton Maag



Our very own Neue Montreal — Free font

Neue Montreal is a great alternative to Helvetica. It has a bit of a tighter kerning and it makes a great workhorse font. You can also see it in full effect on our site since it's our base typeface for all the text.


Arimo by Steve Matteson — Free Font



Neue Haas Unica by Monotype



Tex Gyre Heros by Gust — Free font



UnB by Universidade de Brasilia — Free font



Work Sans by Wei Huang — Free font



Neue Haas Grotesk by Font Bureau



Thank you for reading!

If you need more inspiration about font pairing you can go read our font pairing guides — Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 are available.

Neue Montreal is one of our grotesk fonts but we have many other free options available — Go check them out.

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