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Does anyone have any insight regarding which fonts work better as substitutes for Helvetica and/or Helvetica Neue on Affinity Designer projects primarily viewed as PDF presentations on PC and Mac system screens, but sometimes also for standard printing?

FYI, my system is MacBook Pro running OSX 11.2.3 Big Sur. FontAgentPro is my font handling app.

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What is the (potential) problem with Helvetica that has prompted you to look for a substitute? :/

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Affinity Designer/Photo/Publisher for Windows 1.9.2 • Windows 10 Home (4th gen Core i3 CPU)
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4 hours ago, ABHULtheELF said:

which fonts work better as substitutes for Helvetica and/or Helvetica Neue on Affinity Designer projects primarily viewed as PDF presentations on PC and Mac system screens, but sometimes also for standard printing?

The one font which your typographical eye likes the best.

As for my own eye, I've always loved Univers, ever since the art school. We had a Diatype typesetter in the class room, and a few Univers disks were included. We also had piles of preprinted Lorem Ipsum sheets typeset in Univers in various sizes. Thus I became irreversibly indoctrinated. :)

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15 hours ago, Alfred said:

What is the (potential) problem with Helvetica that has prompted you to look for a substitute? :/

This is indeed the crucial question, as if there were anything else problem with Helvetica, or Helvetica Neue, than that they are so common. They are common for a reason. I just recently bought Helvetica Now (48 fonts), which is a snob version of Helvetica, as I am such a bloody font snob. It is (also) an excellent font and has some extra features that allow hiding the most (muggle) recognizable helvetica-parts ;-)

 helveticanow_speclals.jpg.a87289145798a7812ddf58a1eef98b91.jpg

But seriously, @loukash already gave the best no-snob-answer: whatever you like the best. Univers is truly fine. As are super families like Source Sans Pro (free font by Adobe so that would be available for any of your customers, similarly as Helvetica), Seravek (comes free with Apple operating system), and many many free fonts in the excellent Google library (like Lato).

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Let's not forget Arial. 😀

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9 minutes ago, RNKLN said:

Let's not forget Arial. 😀

Yes, that would also work as a 100% metrically equivalent replacement. This really depends on the intended usage and level of equivalence that is wished. E.g. stylistic similarity would require staying in grotesk font families (like Univers) which are more minimalist than e.g. humanist sans-serifs and also normally use oblique cursive version rather than true italics. 

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26 minutes ago, RNKLN said:

Let's not forget Arial.

Hey, I've already put users on "ignore" for less! ;)

In other words:
No, please FORGET Arial!

That said…
No, not totally:

23 minutes ago, Lagarto said:

This really depends on the intended usage

Exactly.
Back in the day Arial was deliberately optimized for CRT display readability at small sizes, and it did an excellent job at that, way better than Helvetica. At least on classic Mac OS of the 1990s. OS X changed the game forever though. I still use Arial internally sometimes, for example in my FileMaker databases for fields and field labels at small sizes like 9-11 pt. On my non-retina displays it's still more readable than Helvetica or others, with the exception of the brilliantly optimized-for-OS-X Lucida Grande at 9 pt. The latter lacks italic, however.

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20 hours ago, kaffeeundsalz said:

Comic Sans seems to be a reasonable alternative.

That's a 10 years old Google April Fools prank.

I think both are fonts that people love to hate, no doubt partly because they are (or used to be) so common.

But it is of course practical to do something that needs to be shared / edited by multiple people, etc. in Helvetica (Arial) or Times New Roman because most users have them installed on their systems. Most of the text samples on this forum are typed in Arial because that's the default in Affinity apps (as it is in CorelDRAW), and you can be sure that whoever opens the file does not need to worry about missing fonts when trying to resolve the problem.(Mentioning Source Sans Pro, Seravek and Lato in my post were partially based on availability and freeness of these fonts, and in that sense as possible replacements for Helvetica, though Seravek would be free only on macOS, and I think its usage is somehow limited.)

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There's one thing about comic sans which lots of people don't know actually: It's one of the best fonts in terms of legibility for people with dyslexia. And unlike some special fonts for this matter (i. e. open dyslexic) it's widely available as per standard on a lot of systems.

So, especially for use in schools it's not the worst choice for a teacher to use comic sans.

»A designer's job is to improve the general quality of life. In fact, it's the only reason for our existence.«
Paul Rand (1914-1996)

[DISCLAIMER: Don't wonder about me probably giving the same answer as user R C-R. I blocked his comments, so my reply is not an intentional copied answer as I couldn't see his posts.]

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4 minutes ago, Andy05 said:

There's one thing about comic sans which lots of people don't know actually: It's one of the best fonts in terms of legibility for people with dyslexia.

Trebuchet MS has good legibility for people with dyslexia, and (in my opinion) it’s much more elegant.

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22 hours ago, ABHULtheELF said:

primarily viewed as PDF presentations on PC and Mac system screens

That would make me focus on fonts with an especially good readability on screens. Even though this subject has been a lot more important a few decades ago when monitor pixels were larger and resolution much lower than nowadays, the readability is a valuable aspect. The nicest font face set in gray text in an extra light weight may meant to appear elegant (subtle, modest, restrained) from the designers point of view but may prevent others from starting to read. There were many articles written about readability and fonts … e.g.

https://medium.com/productivity-revolution/10-best-fonts-for-improving-reading-experience-6171ce199e97
https://thrive.design/best-fonts-for-reading-easiest-to-read-online-design-fonts/
https://people.dsv.su.se/~jpalme/internet-course/font-report.html
https://www.nngroup.com/search/?q=readability+font

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43 minutes ago, Alfred said:

Trebuchet MS has good legibility for people with dyslexia, and (in my opinion) it’s much more elegant.

I've done some design and layout work for a client in Australia, who published books for children with dyslexia. First choice was open dislexic as font for obvious reasons. But comic sans was tested as the most useful and most helpful font among all those, which are available when installing MS Windows. Maybe that's different for adults, but when we tested fonts with children (up to 14 years old), comic sans beat all other "windows fonts" by far.

»A designer's job is to improve the general quality of life. In fact, it's the only reason for our existence.«
Paul Rand (1914-1996)

[DISCLAIMER: Don't wonder about me probably giving the same answer as user R C-R. I blocked his comments, so my reply is not an intentional copied answer as I couldn't see his posts.]

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20 minutes ago, Andy05 said:

First choice was open dislexic as font for obvious reasons. But comic sans was tested as the most useful and most helpful font among all those, which are available when installing MS Windows.

So Comic Sans won against OpenDyslexic?

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Univers is indeed one of the beautiful ones. Also Frutiger is a classic.

What I discovered a while back are the two similar ones "TT Interphases" and "Inter". Both of them were developed to be good on screens as an average design of good modern fonts iirc.

I use Inter for a lot of things including print. It looks similar to Apple's system font San Francisco. But it might need manual letter spacing to look attractive in some situations.

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37 minutes ago, kaffeeundsalz said:

So Comic Sans won against OpenDyslexic?

No, OpenDyslexic won with ease. Hands down. But we had to test fonts which are commonly available without the need to install OpenDyslexic. Even though latter is open source, most schools don't allow the installation of own fonts. Hence, the test with "common" fonts as well. 

What I learned is that a font seems to need some "uniqueness" to each individual char. I. e. "b" and "d" can't be just mirrored, nor can b and q look alike, just rotated by 180°. Sometimes, just a variation of the thickness of one of the lines (i. e. the upper half of the "b" vs. bottom half of "d") already helped the kids massively. Often, single letters seem to get shifted around, flipped horizontally or vertically, mirrored etc. I've been told, that that's what sometimes happens at least to some people with dyslexia. So, even if the brain is messing around by flipping the letters, there's still something to differ. And that seems to help.

Disclaimer: I'm by no means any expert in this matter. But that's what I just observed by following the procedures during the tests made.

»A designer's job is to improve the general quality of life. In fact, it's the only reason for our existence.«
Paul Rand (1914-1996)

[DISCLAIMER: Don't wonder about me probably giving the same answer as user R C-R. I blocked his comments, so my reply is not an intentional copied answer as I couldn't see his posts.]

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19 minutes ago, Andy05 said:

the upper half of the "b" vs. bottom half of "d"

Aren’t the characters in Open Dyslexic heavier at the bottom than the top? That would help with “b” and “p” which are mirrored vertically, but it isn’t obvious how it would help with “b” and “d”.

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30 minutes ago, Alfred said:

Aren’t the characters in Open Dyslexic heavier at the bottom than the top? That would help with “b” and “p” which are mirrored vertically, but it isn’t obvious how it would help with “b” and “d”.

The "d" also has a bit of a tail that the "b" doesn't have. Perhaps that's part of what helps distinguish them?

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4 minutes ago, walt.farrell said:

The "d" also has a bit of a tail that the "b" doesn't have. Perhaps that's part of what helps distinguish them?

image.png.93a294244bc754c03f12ffea6865bea9.png

Yeah. Main aspect was (as far  as I understood), that you can't put two different letters onto each other with a congruent shape. No matter whether mirrored horizontally or vertically, rotated or any combination of that. Even slight differences (like the tiny tail you mentioned) seem to make a big difference for legibility.

I might have confused in my example a different "dyslexic font" we tested back then. But that failed in the tests. This font is indeed "heavier" at the bottom like Alfred said. Maybe that's what make it easier for a person with dyslexia to recognise bottom and top of a letter. It's quite some years ago that I have last worked with that customer and haven't dug deep into the dyslexic matters since.

What I still remember is some kids being capable of reading a whole page in minutes, which took literally 10+ times longer when using a font like Helvetica or Times New Roman.

»A designer's job is to improve the general quality of life. In fact, it's the only reason for our existence.«
Paul Rand (1914-1996)

[DISCLAIMER: Don't wonder about me probably giving the same answer as user R C-R. I blocked his comments, so my reply is not an intentional copied answer as I couldn't see his posts.]

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