The Helvetica font isn’t cutting it any more.
Don’t get me wrong: Helvetica is a perfectly acceptable font. I use it myself, mostly for labels, captions and navigation menus. Utilitarian stuff.
Why? Because that’s what it’s suited for. Helvetica (and its fraternal twin, Arial) are perfect for communicating information when you want the vehicle you’re communicating with to disappear.
That’s because Helvetica is so common, we don’t even notice it any more.
What if that’s not what you want? What if you’d like your font choice to have a little personality?
This post outlines five alternatives to Helvetica for you to explore. If you need to combine one of these with a font you already use, read about how to combine fonts here.
The best news of all? These Helvetica alternatives are all free, and you can get them from the Google Font API. So if you want to add them to your website and use them in your print materials, there’s nothing holding you back.
Inject some font personality with these alternatives to Helvetica
These fonts share two traits: they’re quirky, but they’re also readable. Why are these two traits important?
Choosing a font with some character helps to differentiate your website and marketing materials from everyone else’s. But it’s not enough to choose a font that’s unique: it needs to be easy to read, too.
Because that’s what fonts are designed to do, isn’t it? Communicate. If you read several paragraphs of text in a font you’d like to use and it’s slowing you down or is hard to read, then the font is not doing its job.
Use any of the five fonts below with confidence: they have personality, but they’re also easy to read. Win-win!
Amaranth has the most “personality” of all the fonts in this post. It’s a sans-serif font, but its quirky curves and unusual letter shapes (check out the lower case k and the capital Q) make it a great choice if you like your fonts streamlined, but memorable.
Amaranth comes in regular, bold and italic weights, which makes it versatile for both headlines and body text.
Cabin is a clear, pared-down font with some personality sprinkled on top. It’s the closest font to Helvetica of all the fonts in this post, and a good choice if you want something that’s just a half step away.
Cabin comes in eight weights, so you’re sure to find the right style for both headlines and body text.
Exo has a space-age vibe, and unique tapered end points that look aerodynamic. The letterforms are more square than round, but despite this it’s very readable, even for body text.
Exo is available in a whopping 18 weights — the most extensive font family I’m sharing here.
The shapes of the letters in Quattrocento Sans help move your eyes from word to word, making it smooth and effortless to read.
Bonus points for this font: it comes in a serif version, too, so if you want to use both styles, the combination is already done for you.
The Ubuntu font was especially designed for clarity on computer screens and mobile devices, making it a great choice for your website. All the picky details have been stripped away on this font, making it especially effective when used at small sizes.
Ubuntu is available in eight weights, including a condensed version that combines well with the regular version of the font.
Use a free online tool to see these fonts in action
To see these fonts in use, try using the Web Font Combinator.
Choose a font for your headline, specify what size you’d like to see, and do the same for the body text. You’ll be able to view a full paragraph and get a good feel for how the font you like reads, and how it combines with other fonts.
Unique fonts are worth the extra effort. They’re a very efficient way to add personality to your pages, and add pizzazz to your marketing.
How about you: do you dare ditch Helvetica? Let’s talk about it in the comments!