Graphical Symbols

A graphical symbol is a visually perceptible figure with a particular meaning used to transmit information independently of language (definition from ISO 17724:2003). The meaning assigned to each graphical symbol is expressed by its title, which may be supplemented by an application note.
This document lays down the procedure related to the preparation and the acceptance of all new graphical symbols to be used in European Standards (EN).


1.1 Standardized symbols are intended to be widely understood, and as such shall be language neutral.

1.2 Industry wants only one graphical symbol for a certain component or device, independent of its application. Therefore, when preparing ENs that include graphical symbols, the Technical Committee (TC) should ensure that new symbols do not conflict with or duplicate symbols or sets of symbols that have already been standardized.
It is therefore necessary that a body is responsible for the coordination of all standardized graphical symbols all over the world. That responsibility lies with:

  • ISO/TC 145 "Graphical symbols".  This ISO/TC has the responsibility for the review, coordination and registration of public information symbols, safety signs and graphical symbols for use on equipment.
  • ISO/TC 10 "Technical product documentation". This ISO/TC has taken the responsibility for review and coordination of graphical symbols used in technical product documentation.

In addition, there is coordination with IEC/TC 3 "Information structures, documentation and graphical symbols" and with IEC/TC 3/SC 3C "Graphical symbols for use on equipment".

These TCs ascertain that no graphical symbol as proposed by a TC will give rise to ambiguity of meaning or will overlap with the symbols already standardized and registered in the basic ISO catalogue standards and in the relevant database. The aim is to ensure that one symbol does not have more than one meaning and that the same meaning is not covered by more than one symbol.

1.3 In the light of improved coordination of work between ISO and CEN and in order to avoid potential overlap of work and possibilities for diverging specifications, each CEN/TC shall verify through the relevant subcommittee of ISO/TC 145 or ISO/TC 10 that each and every graphical symbol it wishes to incorporate in an EN is coordinated within the entire field of standardized graphical symbols.

1.4 In order to ease the handling and interpretation of graphical symbols, ISO/TC 145 and ISO/TC 10 (and IEC/TC 3) have established for each graphical symbol:

  • a common name for the required meaning, and
  • a registration number (needed for identification).

It is an absolute requirement to use at least the registration number in every publication as a means of identification (e.g. ISO 7000-1135 or ISO 7010-W001).


2.1 Graphical symbols may form the main subject of an EN. Moreover, a single symbol or several symbols may be part of a standard covering wider aspects of the subject to which the symbol(s) refers.

2.2 When a CEN/TC decides to produce graphical symbols, it shall:

  • be able to demonstrate the need for the proposed graphical symbol;
  • have reviewed the relevant ISO and/or IEC standards of graphical symbols, in order to avoid ambiguity and/or overlap with existing standardized graphical symbols, and to check for consistency with any related graphical symbol or family or graphical symbols already standardized;
  • create the proposed graphical symbol in accordance with the relevant standards and instructions, these include design principles and criteria of acceptance.

When the TC is aware that a graphical symbol with a specific meaning is already registered in ISO, it should quote this in its standard.

The different categories of graphical symbols and the relevant basic standards to be considered are listed in the ISO supplement to ISO/IEC Directives - Annex SH (access via the ISO website - under 'Official Rules').

2.3 As soon as the need for a graphical symbol arises and no later than the CEN Enquiry stage, the TC should send the relevant application form to the relevant subcommittee secretariat of ISO/TC 145 or ISO/TC 10 to be checked.

Upon receipt of a proposal, the responsible subcommittee of ISO/TC 145 or ISO/TC 10 should check within 2 months whether the application form has been correctly completed and the relevant graphics file has been correctly provided.  If necessary, the CEN/TC will be invited to modify the application and to resubmit it.

The procedures for the relevant ISO/TC 145 subcommittees as well as other useful information (such as graphic templates) are available on their websites:

The necessary application forms for the submission of proposals are also available on those websites.

2.4 Upon receipt of a correctly completed application form, a formal review process starts to review the proposal for consistency with standardized graphical symbols, the relevant design principles and criteria of acceptance.

2.5 When the graphical symbol proposed by the CEN/TC has been agreed upon by ISO/TC 145 or ISO/TC 10 and the CEN/TC, ISO/TC 145 or ISO/TC 10 allocates a registration number. This indicates that the coordination process has been finalised successfully. The graphical symbol can now also be incorporated in the draft standard.

2.6 When the EN with the graphical symbol is published, the TC should send a copy of the symbol or the full standard to the ISO/TC 145 or ISO/TC 10 secretariat for final incorporation within the database (see the list of ISO technical committees on the ISO website for more information and contact details).


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