Alternative Typefaces to Helvetica

To skirt a trademark problem, use fonts that look similar to Helvetica

Close up of alphabet on letterpress
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Helvetica is a widely used sans-serif typeface that has been popular in publishing since the 1960s. Commonly used alternatives to Helvetica include Arial and Swiss. There are many other typefaces that come close and some are better matches than others, but if you are going for a certain look with a little variation, the long list of typefaces offers an embarrassment of riches.

Helvetica is a trademarked typeface. It comes loaded in most Macs and Adobe applications; it's sold by Monotype Imaging, which holds the license on the full Helvetica family of typefaces. There are many typefaces that look like Helvetica, but are not, that may already exist in your computer's font collection. But without knowing the name, those alternative typefaces can be difficult to find. 

What is So Special About Helvetica?

The Helvetica typeface was developed in 1957 by Swiss typeface designers Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffmann. It is considered a neutral typeface that has great clarity, no intrinsic meaning in its form, that can be used on a wide variety of signage.

It is a neo-grotesque or realist design, influenced by the famous 19th-century typeface Akzidenz-Grotesk and other German and Swiss designs. Its use became a hallmark of the international typographic style that emerged from the work of Swiss designers in the 1950s and 60s, becoming one of the most popular typefaces of the 20th century.

Free Downloads of Alternative Helvetica Typefaces

Below you can find some free downloads that can stand in for this classic sans serif typeface.

  • Coolvetica by Ray Larabie. This typeface is almost like Helvetica but with a few nuances.
  • Alte Haas Grotesk comes in regular and bold versions. It is in the neo-grotesque style with a Helvetica look.
  • Lowvetica is inspired by Helvetica, is shorter, squatter, and as it says in its description, it has "eliminated all highs and lows."
  • Helveticrap from Tension Type is an all-caps slightly messy and distressed take on Helvetica.

Other Names for Lookalike and Alternative Helvetica Typefaces

Depending on your computer system or word processing application, the typefaces you have loaded free on your system may include one or all of the following typefaces. These are listed here so you can reduce the time sifting through your computer's typeface library.

  • Arial 
  • Armitage
  • ARS Region
  • Basic Commercial
  • Claro
  • Corvus
  • Europa Grotesk 
  • FF Bau 
  • FF Dagny
  • FF Schulbuch
  • Geneva 2
  • Hamilton 
  • Heldustry
  • Helio/II
  • Helv
  • Helvette
  • Holsatia
  • Maxima 
  • Megaron/II
  • Museo Sans
  • Nimbus Sans
  • Sans URW
  • Spectra
  • Sonoran Sans Serif
  • Swiss
  • Swiss 721 BT
  • Switzerland
  • CG Triumvirate
  • Univers
  • Vega 
  • Swiss 911 BT 
  • Impact and Placard Bold and Swiss 921 BT 

Fun Facts About Helvetica

The typeface was originally named Neue Haas Grotesk (New Haas Grotesque). It was rapidly licensed by Linotype and renamed Helvetica, being similar to the Latin adjective for Switzerland, Helvetia. The typeface name was changed to Helvetica in 1960. Linotype was later acquired by Monotype Imaging.

A feature-length film directed by Gary Hustwit was released in 2007 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the typeface's introduction in 1957.