The Pipe | The Little Black Dress of Text

Every once in a while, oh, say maybe every other five seconds, designers and typographers develop a crush on a hunky piece of punctuation. Past infatuations include the Ampersand. Today the crush in question, the | Vertical Bar or Pipe.

Vertical Bar, why do we love thee? Let us count the ways.

Well, (Parenthesis) are clingy, a little needy. The Vertical bar stands alone, stong and self assure. [Brackets] are a bit brutish and brash. They pinch like a staple. Periods . can be clunky. But the Pipe, oh the Pipe,  is a little more subtle and slimming.  We long for order and simplicity. The Pipe can do that. The Dash – seems hurried and casual. The Pipe offers calm sophistication. The Question Mark ? leaves no room for interpretation. The Pipe goes with anything. The Interpunct • though seemingly harmless and possibly friendly tends to run with the emoticon crowd. The Pipe is a zen master helping us breathe in the midst of text chaos, reaching softly for the sky. The Pipe is slightly aloof, mysterious. We want more.  

The pipe dices, it slices, it lifts and separates in all the right places. Do we risk overusing it. Of course. We always do. Designers are a fickle bunch and our crushes don’t last long. When we do eventually get tired of the ubiquitous object of our affection, we look back in disgust, wondering why we ever fell so hard in the first place. We stop returning phone calls. We quickly find a replacement. And when we do, we drool and dabble. The next “it” type trend is only a lucky keystroke away from its 15 minutes of fame. The life-cycle of a design crush is a quick ride from discovery to abandonment. Glossy pages strewn with past regrets. 

And so as much as this is an ode to the Vertical Bar, it is also a eulogy, an inevitable fond farewell. So, Pipe. I know this is bit premature. You may be the new Helvetica. Don’t take it personally, but the day is coming when we will have to bid you adieu. And though we wish we could be more sentimental, don’t hold your breath. You will not be missed.


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