Univers was intrinsically superior to Helvetica. It had a much larger family at the outset, with 21 members compared to four in 1960. More importantly, its family was logically designed with consistent weights and widths, something that Helvetica never achieved until its redesign as Neue Helvetica in 1982. Univers’ characters, stripped of “unnecessary” elements such as the beard on ‘G’ or the curve on the tail of ‘y,’ were also more rationally designed.
From Paul Shaw in Print, explaining how Helvetica and Univers competed in the 1950s and 1960s. Despite its many flaws, Helvetica eventually became one of the most ubiquitous typefaces in the world. Paul claims:
Helvetica’s current ubiquity is not due to its widespread adoption by Modernist-inclined graphic designers in the 1970s but rather by its availability as a free font on personal computers.