Packaging Symbology

Packaging Symbology
Container and Packaging
by Container and Packaging
September 8, 2020, Updated July 14, 2021

Life is full of symbolism. Green means go. Red means stop. Yellow means stomp on it. Well, some symbols are more clearly understood than others. Whether they deter us from danger or inform us of contents, symbols are especially useful in packaging. Glance through this collection of symbols and discover what each one means for your product.




Remember this class of symbols as the stiff-upper lip group of packaging characters. Only applicable to government or specialty party-approved products, these symbols are founded on legal or regulatory standards.

E-mark: AKA, the estimated sign. This symbol represents a given product's adherence to the European Directive's standards for packaging.

Trademark: This symbol signifies the parent company's interest in securing a trademark on a given name, design or even color. Trademarks can be renewed indefinitely.

Registered Trademark: This packaging symbol represents a trademark that has been registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office. The marking provides protection to the product and character details.

Copyright: This symbol grants a temporary (can eventually expire) protection of writings, music and works of art. Each copyrighted work must sport the copyright symbol.


Handling relates to the specifics of packaging and how it should be, well¦ handled. Here are a few of the most common handling symbols you'll run into.

Recyclable: Everybody knows the circle of arrows symbol. This means the given item can be recycled.

Resin Identification Code: The number within the triangle of cyclical arrows signifies what type of plastic (aka resin) the item is made from.

Please Don't Liter: The dude from the bathroom sign makes an appearance on packaging to remind us to keep our environment clean and dispose of trash correctly.

Fragile: One of the most recognizable packaging symbols. The glass with the crack encourages careful handling of breakable materials.


This category of symbols leaves packaging in the dust and is all about the content. Some content symbols are general and can be applied to a variety of products while other special interest content symbols are only applicable to certain product divisions.

Keep away from sunlight: A general statement, the sun symbol stands to notify consumers to keep the product out of the sun.

Keep away from water: The umbrella symbol is basic too, notifying consumers to keep the product away from water.

PAO (point after opening): This packaging symbol serves as a recommended use-by date, signified by the small number within the jar.

Special Interest Content

USDA Organic: This symbol signifies that the given product has been certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) standards.

Not Tested on Animals: That little bunny isn't adorable just for show. This character symbolizes a love and respect for animals.

Fair-Trade: This symbol reflects the fact that the given product was produced by workers subject to fair labor practices.

Vegetarian: This symbol signifies that the specified product has been approved by the Vegetarian Society.

Vegan: This symbol signifies that the given product has been certified vegan by the Vegan Action group.

Gluten-Free: This symbol reflects the fact that the given product has been certified by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization.

Made In USA: This registered mark signifies that the product is predominantly made and/or grown in the United States.

Hazardous Content Toxic

Toxic: This symbol signifies the presence of toxic or poisonous contents.

Corrosive: This packaging symbol notifies users that the contents are destructive and have the ability to corrode or eat through materials.

Explosive: This packaging symbol signifies the presence of materials capable of causing explosions.

Flammable: This packaging symbol notifies consumers that the product can easily catch fire if near an open flame.

Biohazard: This packaging symbol signifies the presence of an agent that could be detrimental to health.

Radioactive: This packaging symbol declares that the given product may emit radiation.

Packaging symbols really are more than their varied and odd appearances. Don't let a countless stream of unrecognizable characters deter you from leaning the basics of the industry's symbology. Use our infographic as a guide and learn the fundamentals in no time!

Did we leave any important symbols out? Submit them in the comments.