Ditch Helvetica, try these 5 contemporary sans serif typefaces

The other night I took to Twitter to see if anyone had any good suggestions for a contemporary feeling sans-serif typeface for use in a project that I’m working on. I received a number of suggestions, so I thought I’d share five typefaces which were my favorites.

Alright Sans

This contemporary sans-serif, inspired by both grotesque and humanist models, is clean and prudent with a warm, friendly tone. It’s modest design that doesn’t feel at all stiff or bland. It has open apertures and roundabout economy that works exceptionally well across media and at reduced sizes. And with shorter-than-normal capitals and a tall x-height, it’s functional without becoming distracting, goofy, or unprofessional.

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Aperçu is a sans-serif typeface designed by Brighton based studio The Entente. It was started in December 2009, and has been trialled and tested through a number of design commissions taken on by The Entente through 2010. The conceit behind Aperçu was to create a synopsis or amalgamation of classic realist typefaces: Johnston, Gill Sans, Neuzeit & Franklin Gothic.

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A geometric neo-grotesque, Calibre inspired by the rationality of Aldo Novarese’s seldom seen Recta. The now-defunct Nebiolo foundry released Recta in the late ’50s, designed by a team lead by Aldo Novarese. Like Novarese’s Microgramma & Forma, Recta seems to be an attempt to rationalise the genre. Unfortunately it’s marred by over optical correction and awkward branching—neither smooth nor sharp. However, Recta’s rationalisation of the neo-grotesque genre appealed to me and was a logical starting point for Calibre.

You can read a long and extremely interesting essay on the creation of Calibre, and it’s counterpart, Metric by clicking here.

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An elegant modern typeface with a subtle monoline appearance. The simplicity of the design creates clean forms best suited to identity, editorial and advertising uses.

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Supria Sans

Supria Sans and Supria Sans Condensed is an extended family of 36 fonts designed by Hannes von Döhren. It contains two widths, six weights and three styles, including the curvy, feminine Italic as well as the more conventional Oblique. Although it is inspired by the utilitarian clarity of Swiss type design, subtle curves and fine detailing impart a more playful character to the whole Supria Sans family.

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14 Comments Ditch Helvetica, try these 5 contemporary sans serif typefaces

  1. Paul Anthony Webb January 27, 2012 at 12:34 AM

    Calibre and Alright Sans are my favorite from this list.

  2. ts January 27, 2012 at 1:15 AM

    What sites would you recommend Bobby for good open source fonts?

  3. Chris Lees January 27, 2012 at 1:44 AM

    Always a dilemma & nice to see the alternatives – thanks for sharing!

  4. Stephen Coles January 27, 2012 at 11:09 AM

    All great picks, except Knul, which is more of a mildly interesting amateur exercise than a usable typeface.

  5. Bobby Solomon January 27, 2012 at 11:48 AM

    @Stephen Different strokes for different folks.

  6. Ahem January 27, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    Which is the best sans serif for pointing out the difference between “it’s” and “its”?

  7. John Dorcas January 27, 2012 at 5:39 PM

    What san serif are you using on this site? I love it, but I can’t tell if it’s one of these typefaces.

  8. chris January 27, 2012 at 8:38 PM

    @Ahem I think this is what you’re looking for. http://bit.ly/yRpSbd

  9. Antonio January 28, 2012 at 3:40 PM

    I just wish calibre came as a webfont!

  10. Cari January 30, 2012 at 8:46 PM

    These are f***ing hot! I like Avenir, the best.

  11. Christopher February 1, 2012 at 8:11 AM

    You’re forgetting Akzidenz/Frutiger, a bit too for you?

  12. Bobby Solomon February 1, 2012 at 8:29 AM

    @Christopher – Akzidenz is over 100 years old, Frutiger is nearly 40 years old. My goal was to show fonts that have been made in the last 5 years or so.

  13. Esben February 17, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    The Calibre font is simply amazing, stunning, perfect!
    Any free alternatives you can recommend?

  14. CJ March 23, 2012 at 3:15 PM

    No Gotham love?

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