modern but still corporate sans serif?

thierry blancpain's picture


my brother is one of the founders of a company (e-business, its a page that displays photos from parties, has a calendar of the ones coming, etc..). their url is its pretty big already.

they recently changed their logotype from impact (...) to helvetica neue. well, they wanted something very "normal". and i think it works for them, its ok. the agency chose helvetica, i wouldnt have, but hey.. in the end its not my own business.

but for all their ads & stuff, they now also use helvetica neue.. and i think thats just not good for their image. so i want to propose them (for free, he's my brother after all) some other fonts. ehm, i dont mean i will deliver the fonts to them, i'll just make a short presentation about other possibilities :)

so: im looking for MODERN, but still corporate sans serif faces. they shouldnt be too far away from helvetica (i.e. not dax). could you list some possible alternatives? THANKS!

Norbert Florendo's picture

I must say that Neue Helvetica does seem to work well with their site and appropriately feels very, well... Swiss.

Are you proposing another sans to work in conjunction with their existing logo in Neue Helvetica? If so, there could be loss of continuity that helps in the visual balance they now have.

Changing the typefaces to something very similar to Helvetica doesn't make much sense to me either, if the only reason is to be "different."
Because there is a strong Swiss style to their identity, I could only advise to "keep it in the country" so to speak.

IMHO, one of Adrian Frutiger's type styles might work yet retain the look of "Swiss design".

Here are three families that are NOT look-alikes of Helvetica, and range from different to very different than Helvetica:

Avenir, Frutiger and Vectora.

You will definitely need a type family with a range of weights, but if you want the web site text face to be consistent with the "new look" then there are very limited possibilities due to the small range of imbedded browser fonts. All of these issues are to be considered.

You will probably need to create several test renditions of ads and catalogue pages to even convince yourself that it works.

dezcom's picture

Univers would be a good choice.


thierry blancpain's picture

norbert, no, im not speaking about another logo redesign. they dont want that and i can very well understand it. BUT they use so much type-based flash-ads, etc.. on their site, and its just a shame that they always use helvetica - i think.

maybe i was a bit unclear, probably, the word "corporate" isnt "open" enough: im looking for things different to helvetica: no univers, no frutiger. but at the same time, not as "strange" as dax.. maybe meta? something more natural, with more heart than helvetica.. but still familiar, nothing too strange.

avenir could work, thanks for that one.

crossgrove's picture

It's time to start looking throught the specimen books, or online offerings, since the graphics are all online. You seem to know what you don't want; it might be more efficient for you to look at what's available than to ask for suggestions with such an unclear brief.

That is, if it's really worth your time to make an unsolicited proposal for non-paying work.

Dav's picture

An additional alternate sub face for 'Helvetica'.?
What about 'Akkurat', by Laurenz Brunner / Lineto..
( Swiss made, with love.. :)

* Addendum.: Then, later on, silently exchange all 'Helvetica' parts with 'Akkurat'.. :)

Dav, formlos

hrant's picture



Dan Weaver's picture

Why worry about the Helvetica Neue. The end users at the site aren't type designers and only want the information. Not one person (other than you) is saying "Oh my god they are using Helvetica Neue"

.00's picture

Our ClearviewOne which will soon be available as OpenType and renamed ClearviewText may suit the bill.

thierry blancpain's picture

akkurat looks very nice, thanks for that one. ClearviewOne, too.

dan: im not saying "oh my god they are using helvetica neue". im saying: "i know this company very well, and i know what image they want to display. and i KNOW that helvetica is not fitting their image as good as a better suiting typeface could."

dan_reynolds's picture

ITC Franklin Gothic? Syntax? Linotype Synatx?

If you look at Avenir, you should really only consider Avenir Next. Its a real comprehensive family, unlike the original Avenir, with better weight distribution, condensed weights, small caps, oldstyle figures (as options), etc. Plus, its Frutiger's own revision, so…

Hrant mentioned Compatil, but didn't provide a link. Here is the link:

eriks's picture

You could use the Type Navigator on Just click on the attributes you think would apply to Helvetica and see what choices come up. Only from the FontFont library, but that may still be too many.

Check out FF Plus and FF Zwo, both more in the humanist (i.e. Frutiger) vain, but thus more useful and less overused.

Not one person (other than you) is saying “Oh my god they are using Helvetica Neue”
That, with respect, is not the point. If that were relevant, there would only be half a dozen typefaces, one for each distinct category. We’re talking about supporting a brand here. Type is visible language, and if that company has its own style, appearance, language, surely that also needs to be expressed visually. Especially as they may well have competition. What you remember about a company or product is never a precise recollection of facts ("they use Pantone 205 and Neue Helvetica..."), but a much more succint recollection. just like we remember a person. Every detail adds up, and in order to control your appearance, you need to look at every aspect. Watzlawik’s First Axiom is:

You cannot not communicate.

Si_Daniels's picture

For some reason when ever I hear Corporate ID I think of Luc's Corpid...

I don't know why that is - some kind of subliminal advertising perhaps? ;-)

hrant's picture

What's subliminal about "corpid" being short for "corporate identity"?


Nick Shinn's picture

To go with Helvetica:

either Folio, which is a very similar grotesque, but with a smaller x-height...

Or choose Imago, which is kinda similar (although perhaps more like Univers), but has greater stroke contrast....

Or choose grotesques with some alternate, more unusual letterforms, eg Chalet or my own Preface.

hrant's picture

If you must use a grot, use Unica (although [I know] Erik doesn't think it's a grot).


nike's picture

have a look on ff bau. it has the same roots as helvetica.

seml's picture

One exercise you should try is to use the ff navigator or any other of the kind and try several "colours" of text. Sometimes the typeface is very well drawn, but in extensive text doesn´t work.
Anyhow, one good choice, and very near helvetica (as it has been said) whould be the univers family. Althought, some types like frutiger or myriad whould work as well. Another kind whould be the neo-grotesks, such as trade gothic, or more recently the caspari.
The choice of a typeface is always a complex matter of personnality and legibility...

dezcom's picture

Nice "winking face" icon Semi:-)


seml's picture

I was very suprised to see Erik in Typophile, but at the same time, a designer is always a person, a creative and curious person ;)
I have to agree with your comment, but specially with the aspect of the complexity of setting type. One single face has so many forms in his own family that you can´t always explore the capabilities within a family. It reminds me of a computer software: you can say you work well with a program, but it's always relative, from 30% to 90% of it's capabilities. How can it be measured? Anyway, I have never drawn a typeface so far, but the offsprings of typography alone make me busy. The way history, art and communication touch each other through type and typography gives me matter enough to get lost and in love.
I admire your work. I work hard to learn new things about this, almost like an obsession. People who talk about "fonts" can only se the surface of this fantastic world, and it's hard for me to talk to someone who understands...
Romantic speech? Perhaps. I just think typography has everything to do with human. Don't you?

seml's picture

The name is SEML, my 4 initials.
I also noticed your own type(face), curiously.
Does it actually looks like you?

Your comment about univers was as immediate to me as it was to you, I believe ;).

hrant's picture

> a designer is always a person, a creative and curious person

On the other hand, a surprising proportion of designers seem to
be quite lousy communicators on the personal level, and tend to
only speak up in public to whine.


Miss Tiffany's picture

Font Bureau's Vonness

dezcom's picture

seml ,

Sorry I misread your name. My eyes are not what they used to be:-)

Tiffany thinks it does look like me but my mother thinks I am much more handsome--of course, she has bad eyes too :-)


thierry blancpain's picture

i just wanted to say thank you again, awesome feedback here. the company is really busy at the moment, and obviously, design questions arent the most important for them. maybe in the two months, i'll be able to talk to them about it. but still thanks alot for all your feedback.

dezcom's picture

"...a surprising proportion of designers seem to
be quite lousy communicators on the personal level, and tend to
only speak up in public to whine."

Sorry about that Hrant, honest, I'll TRY to improve; but Oh-h-h-, I CAN'T! , I CAN'T! , I CAN'T! , I CAN'T! ohh, WHY am I ALWAYS Picked on; Everone is against ME! It ISN't MY fault!!! THEY should fix everything so it is PERFECT just for ME!!!


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