Alternative Typefaces to Helvetica

What to do when you want a font like Helvetica, but not 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. Many other typefaces come close, and some are better matches than others, but if you are going for a certain look with a little bit of variation, the long list of Helvetica-like typefaces offers an embarrassment of riches.

Helvetica is a trademarked typeface. It comes loaded on most Macs and in Adobe applications. The Helvetica font is sold by Monotype Imaging, which holds the license on the full Helvetica family of typefaces.

Many typefaces look like Helvetica that may already exist in your computer's font collection. Unless you know the look-alikes' names, though, those alternative typefaces can be difficult to find. When you find them, you'll be surprised at how similar they looked when compared with Helvetica.

Fonts like Helvetica
 L. McAlpine

Stand-Ins for Helvetica

You probably already have several fonts that resemble Helvetica. Note that they are not exact replicas, but they are sans serif typefaces with the same clean and mostly traditional looking presentation. Depending on your computer system or word processing application, your font selections may include some of the following. Use this list to reduce the time you spend sifting through your computer's typeface library.

  • Arial 
  • Armitage
  • ARS Region
  • Avenir
  • Basic Commercial
  • Calibri
  • Claro
  • Corbel
  • Corvus
  • Europa Grotesk 
  • FF Bau 
  • FF Dagny
  • FF Schulbuch
  • Geneva
  • Hamilton 
  • Heldustry
  • Helio/II
  • Helvette
  • Holsatia
  • Lucida Grande
  • Maxima 
  • Megaron/II
  • Microsoft Sans Serif
  • Museo Sans
  • Nimbus Sans
  • Sans URW
  • Seravek
  • Spectra
  • Sonoran Sans Serif
  • Swiss
  • Swiss 721 BT
  • Swiss 911 BT 
  • Switzerland
  • Trebuchet
  • Triumvirate
  • Univers
  • Vega
  • Verdana 

Free Downloads of Alternative Helvetica Typefaces

If you don't already have any fonts that are similar to Helvetica, some free downloads can stand in for this classic sans serif typeface.

  • Coolvetica by Ray Larabie is a Helvetica-like typeface 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, inspired by Helvetica, is shorter and squatter and, as it says in its description, "eliminates all highs and lows."

Fun Facts About Helvetica

The typeface was originally named Neue Haas Grotesk. It was soon licensed by Linotype and renamed Helvetica, evoking the Latin adjective for Switzerland, helvetia. 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.

What's So Special About Helvetica?

The Helvetica typeface was developed in 1957 by Swiss typeface designers Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffmann. It is a neo-grotesque or realist design, deriving from the influential 19th-century typeface Akzidenz-Grotesk and other German and Swiss designs.

Helvetica is a neutral typeface that has great clarity and no intrinsic meaning in its form, so it can be used in a variety of situations. It is clean and legible.

Helvetica became a hallmark of the international typographic style that emerged from the work of Swiss designers in the 1950s and 60s and became one of the most popular typefaces of the 20th century.