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ITC Franklin Gothic Alternatives: A Collection of Alternative Fonts for the Adventurous Designer

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Franklin Gothic is everywhere. The font is so ubiquitous, that you’ve likely seen it hundreds, if not thousands, of times during your life. You just may not realize it, especially if you’re not immediately familiar with this sans serif font and its particular look and feel. But it’s everywhere – newspapers, headlines, books, album covers, and even the occasional sign have all used Franklin Gothic as a font to support the main goals of providing legibility and character.

So, where does the font come from? Its story begins in 1903 with a man named Morris Fuller Benton. Heavily influenced by the Akzidenz Grotesk font – as well as several others that sprung up in the wake of the revolutionary typeface – Benton created Franklin Gothic for American Type Founders (ATF). This was truly a case of a man leading the way for an entire company, as Benton was the head of ATF’s design department, as well as being its chief type designer. So, it was up to him to find a font that would help the company make sales and, ideally, put it on the map in the typeface world.

Franklin Gothic did just that. It became the most famous of the 200-plus fonts that Benton created thanks to its exceptionally wide use in news and magazine print in the years that followed its creation. And even as print has started to fade in popularity – thanks to the rise of the internet – Franklin Gothic enjoyed a new lease of life as a popular web font.

However, Franklin Gothic is not ITC Franklin Gothic. At least, not exactly. ITC Franklin Gothic is something of a remix of the original Franklin Gothic. Created in the 1970s by Victor Caruso, it’s an expansion that brings several new book weights to the original, with a higher x-weight than the original being the key difference. Regardless, anybody who’s worked with ITC Franklin Gothic knows how versatile the font can be. They may also be looking to get creative by using fonts similar to Franklin Gothic. That’s where this list comes in – a collection of fonts that makes achieving the Franklin Gothic look easy without going so far as to mar the aesthetic of the original font design.

ITC Franklin Gothic Alternatives

Expressway

Sheer variety is Expressway’s calling card, as you get a choice of 28 font varieties if you buy the whole package, though each can also be purchased separately. Those 28 fonts are made up of seven weights, each with two widths. And those combos of weight and width are also available in italic format, making up the 28. Expressway is a perfect choice for signage if you feel that Franklin Gothic may be a bit “newsy” for a large sign. The font draws its inspiration from the road and highway signs found in multiple countries, which gives you a hint as to what makes the font so special – clarity and legibility come to the forefront.
Starting at$34

HK Grotesk Pro

Combine the sheer number of choices that Expressway offers with a great Grotesk influence and you get this gorgeous font – a typeface that’s just as usable for print purposes as Franklin Gothic while providing more bolding and thin options. In truth, this font is a mishmash of several classic sans serifs. You’ll also see hints of Gill Sans, Univers, and Akzidenz Grotesk – Franklin Gothic’s main inspiration – here, which may be why this is such an effective multipurpose font.
Starting at$45

Tilson

A staggering 200 languages covered. That’s the headline for Tilson as it’s a font that sets itself apart from its inspiration by incorporating a huge range of characters that make it more versatile from an international typography perspective. It’s a workhorse font – one that’s just as useful for translating documents and marketing materials as it is for non-English companies that want a legible sans serif. It’s also OpenType compatible, and has a few nice little touches that make it a pleasant (and perhaps more attractive) alternative to Franklin Gothic. Take the lowercase “i,” for example. The gorgeous rounded dot above the letter lends the font a slightly less formal touch.
Starting at$29

Gilam

Check out the above picture and you’ll see some of the playfulness that makes Gilam such an attractive font for branding. The slight angle at the top of the lowercase “l” and the bold rectangular dot for the “i” showcase a font designer who’s willing to experiment with interesting design choices while still creating something that aligns with the classical aesthetic. The designers call it “semi-condensed,” and we think that’s a perfect descriptor. There’s a narrowness to the font that sets it apart, though it never strays into being so narrow that it becomes less readable than you need it to be.
Starting at$75

Morton

Take the classic style of the grotesques and add in a dash of condensing and you get the Morton Type Family – a collection of fonts that are available in several weights. You can think of it as a less experimental version of the previously mentioned Gilam. It has the thinness in lettering that the font provides, only with less playfulness. Gilam in formal attire, if you will. That extra formality brings it closer in line with what you might expect from an ITC Franklin Gothic alternative, though there is the occasional flourish. Just check out the uppercase “Q” to see what we mean.
Starting at$59

Franklin Gothic Raw

Take a glance at Franklin Gothic Raw at the font’s smaller sizes and you’re going to be left with a question: How is this different from ITC Franklin Gothic? The simple answer is that it isn’t – the creators say as much – and it’s not until you blow the font up that you’ll start to see some variance. Once you see the letters in big and bold style, you’ll see the slight imperfections that give it the “raw” moniker. Once you have larger versions of the letters, you’ll see a waviness in the straight lines that isn’t present in the original. It’s raw but it’s not rough – this is still a font you can use for stylized projects and presentations.
Starting at$19.5

FullerSansDT

“Stylish” and “functional.” Those are the words that DTP Types use to describe this font, and it’s difficult to argue with them. There’s no messing around with this font, as it’s neutral across the board. No weird stylizations on the letters – or any other weird geometric decisions – as this is just a straight-ahead, no-nonsense choice. Granted, that also means it’s not the most interesting font around, at least from a creative standpoint. But its functionality serves a purpose – it’s a great choice for formal documentation, web design, and marketing for products that make a big deal out of removing the fuss and getting to the meat.
Starting at$49

Plymouth Serial

Available in 14 weights, Plymouth Serial is similar to FullerSansDT in a lot of ways – it’s a fairly straightforward font that doesn’t do anything too “out there” with its lettering. That’s not to say it’s devoid of character. Some of its lowercase letters have distinctive curve appeal, with slight angling on the curves for “u” and “h” giving you an idea of what we mean. Those flourishes aren’t distracting, though, and have no impact on the font’s legibility. Where ITC Franklin Gothic may be a great choice for newsprint, Plymouth Serial is a touch less formal and may be a better choice for magazines.
Starting at$6.99

Gothic 725

What better way to wrap up our list of alternatives than with a font that’s basically one of the inspirations for Franklin Gothic made digital. That’s what you get with Gothic 725 – a Bitstream version of the famous Akzidenz Grotesk font that Benton drew from when creating the original Franklin Gothic. There’s not a huge amount to say about the font beyond that. It’s just as usable for newspapers, headlines, and digital printing as ITC Franklin Gothic, making it a good choice for those who want to get down to the font’s roots with the design that made it possible in the first place.
Starting at$30

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Any Major Brands Use Franklin Gothic?

Franklin Gothic has been used in so many ways that it’s almost impossible to associate it with a specific brand – it’s too ubiquitous. Some notable uses include the title cards for the “Rocky” films, which use a heavy version of the font, and a condensed version used for the subtitles in Star Wars. As for major brands, The North Face uses ITC Franklin Gothic. And all of this is without mentioning the multitudes of newspapers and magazines that have used the font over the years. The New York Times uses it, as does a game that any letter enthusiast will recognize – Scrabble.

How Did Benton Name Franklin Gothic?

Interestingly, the “Franklin” part of Franklin Gothic comes from a very famous source – U.S. founding father Benjamin Franklin. Beyond being one of the most important figures in American history, Franklin was a typesetter by trade and published several books himself, such as Poor Richard’s Almanac. As for the “Gothic” aspect of the name, that’s a common term used to describe many fonts contemporary to the late 19th and early 20th century, though it’s now used to describe typefaces that have a more classical flavor.

Did Morris Fuller Benton Create Any More Fonts?

Benton is responsible for dozens of well-known fonts beyond Franklin Gothic. Century, the Cheltenham series, Norwood Roman, and Monotone Gothic all come from his creative mind, so the odds are high that you’ve seen at least one of his fonts somewhere during your lifetime.

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