In life, three things are certain; death, taxes and the fact that designers will forever use Helvetica.
It may be the perfect typeface for the job or the default decision; either way, designers LOVE Helvetica, and for good reason. It’s a timeless classic with a long, aesthetic legacy behind it, backed by decades of Modernism, Swiss type designers and slick typographic minds – Hoffmann, Ruder, Gerstner, Tschichold and Bringhurst, to name a few.
Helvetica often flies solo. But the truth is, Helvetica’s modernist, mid-century construction is highlighted when paired with another font. Especially, we might add, a serifed typeface.
With a seemingly endless array of fonts out there, we’re here to help! Here are five fantastic, free-to-try, affordable fonts to pair with Helvetica.
A Pangram Pangram classic! Designed to work its magic as headline and body text, Editorial New’s precise, elegant letterforms bring playfulness and practicality to any project. Side by side with Helvetica, not only does the serif give a retro, 90s vibe, but the contrast in curves gives any application the personality it deserves – be it a more chic, fashion editorial tone in its lighter weight or a chunky, statemental style when heavier.
As used by big brands the likes of Nike, Migra is quite a typographic beast. Inspired by the features of migratory birds, its spikey serifs make a striking contrast with the subtlety and neutrality of Helvetica. Bringing together the traditional and the contemporary, the two fonts make for an expressive pairing – highlighting Migra’s unique, variable ligatures and elegant curves.
No matter your use for Helvetica, there is a cut of Fragment to go with it. With over 32 distinct weights, Fragment is an incredibly variable font, with around 581 glyphs and alternatives within each weight and the ability to flex between both sans and serif within a single style. Rife with quirks and playful features, alongside its workhorse construction, Fragment can act in support of Helvetica or take over as the champion typeface – variable between thin and black weights.
Providing an organic, humanist contrast to Helvetica’s modernist architecture, Woodland is a versatile partner for the sans serif. Available in six weights, with over 2500 glyphs, the meticulous attention to detail in Woodland’s design is second to none, bringing out Helvetica’s sharp construction in contrast to its fluid, truly unique letterforms. Try it out in lowercase; things can get quite quirky!
Inspired by the work of famous Japanese artist Eiko Ishioka, Eiko provides an innately analogue, physical counterpart to the digital applications of Helvetica. For uses in UI, UX, website design and more, the refined, elegant forms of Eiko’s explorative serifs allows for the human side of the typography craft to come through. The juxtaposition this creates is also reflected in the high-contrast design of Eiko’s letterforms, including the kana, hiragana and katakana alphabet support, 81 kanjis and full italics, Japanese punctuations, vertical, circular and square numbering, stylistic sets, mathematical and meteorological symbols, ligatures, arrows and much much more. It goes without saying, but there’s certainly plenty to share with Helvetica.