Packaging Symbols Explained
Details of commonly used transit packaging symbols, plus free downloadable files
Whilst there has been increased focus over the past few years on the recycling symbols on packaging, you may well have noticed a wide range of corrugated transit packaging symbols too.
But what do they all mean? And should you be using any of them on your own cardboard packaging?
- This guide covers the major symbols used on industrial packaging, including:
- Symbols highlighting best handling practices
- Those that relate to protecting the contents
- The most common recycling symbols (for cardboard packaging)
- A number of other commonly used logos and icons.
Please continue reading for further information on the specific logos, as well as links to download artwork files (JPEG or EPS / AI vectors) to use on your own packaging as appropriate.
Quick Reference / Contents
01: Copyright & Correct Usage
Important notice on using these packaging symbols
The following symbols and logos provided for free download on this page as either vector (EPS) or bitmap (JPEG) format, for you to as appropriate.
Please note however that a number of the downloadable files are for use when you have the appropriate permission from the copyright holder, or governing body. It is your responsibility to ensure you can legally use these logos, and that you adhere to the correct usage guidelines.
It is also your responsibility to ensure that any symbols used are done so in the correct manner.
GWP Group Ltd can accept no responsibility for unlawful or incorrect use of the supplied symbols. GWP can also accept no responsibility for damage or loss resulting from incorrect usage of these symbols on your packaging.
However, if you have any doubt, please contact us using the details on this page.
02: Packaging Symbols for Protecting Contents
A range of symbols and icons to help protect your products in transit
The following packaging symbols are commonly used to convey information about how the contents of the box / carton should be protected. For example, they can indicate whether the contents are fragile, prone to moisture, which way up they should be stored and so on.
Please also note that it is possible to use multiple logos together to emphasize specific points (such as the Fragile and Handle with Care symbols) or to convey a range of different instructions.
Please use the chart below for an “at a glance” reference, or use the links to download files that can be used on your own transit packaging artwork.
A widely used and recognised symbol that indicates the contents are fragile (not they are necessarily made from glass). Is sometimes accompanies by the word “Fragile”.
The umbrella with rain drop s symbol on packaging indicates that the box (and contents) should be kept dry. A variation showing just the umbrella can also be used.
Handle With Care
Another common packaging symbol, two hands surrounding a box tells the user / handler that the carton should be handled with care.
This Way Up
A horizontal line with two vertical arrows pointing upwards indicates which way up the packaging should be kept during storage / transit. Can sometimes be used with the explicit text “This Way Up”.
Do Not Open With Knife
A symbol of a knife with a cross either next too or striking through the symbol details that the packaging should not be opened with a knife (as this may damage the contents within).
Do Not Place Near Magnets:
Certain electronics or specialist equipment can be sensitive to magnetic forces. If this is the case, use this symbol of a magnet to instruct people not to place the box near magnets.
Do Not Drop
Whilst this should be fairly obvious (surely it is best to not try and drop anything) this symbol can give people handling your packaging another indication that they should take care when handling.
03: Handling Instruction Symbols
Symbols on packaging providing safety / handling instructions
Whilst there is some overlap in terms of protecting the contents of the packaging, the following packaging symbols are also commonly used to illustrate safe handling, stacking and storage practices.
As with the above symbols, various combinations can be used as appropiriate (although bear in mind too many icons can serve to confuse the user, or see important information being overlooked).
Two bars with a number above provides information on how high the boxes can be safely stacked. The number can therefore vary depending on the nature of the packaging and it’s contents.
Load Weight / Height
A more detailed version of the above packaging symbol, a tower of boxes with a number in the middle can indicate safe stacking height or sometimes weight. The number in the middle box can indicate stacking height, or provide a weight.
Do Not Stack
A symbol of packaging boxes stacked next to a cross (or sometimes with the cross over the main illustration) tells the users not to stack the packaging
A weight symbol indicates the weight of the packaging (including contents). This can allow users to decide how best to handle the packaging, as well decide which boxes (if there are different variants) they require. The number within the symbol can be changed as appropriate.
2 Person Lift
Rather than showing a weight symbol, two people lifting a box can indicate that it is too heavy for a single person to carry.
Similar to the above, this packaging symbol cautions people to be careful when lifting the box / packaging due to its’ heavy content and / or large size.
Use Pallet Truck
The symbol of a sack / pallet truck with boxes stacked on it indicates to the user that this form of assistance should be used to move multiple items at a time.
Do Not Use Sack Truck
Conversely, this symbol indicates that a sack truck should not be used to transport this packaging and its’ contents (as doing so may damage the items within)
Do Not Use Forklift
Finally, an image of a forklift alongside a cross or with a strike-through indicates the packaging / contents are not suitable to be moved using a forklift.
04: Miscellaneous Packaging Symbols
Other frequently used cardboard packaging symbols
Besides the corrugated transit packaging symbols used for handling, safety and protection, there are a number of other, less frequently used icons that can still be found on corrugated packaging.
Please use the chart below for further details or to download the specific symbols.
The exclamation mark within a triangle is a symbol for general caution. This can be applied to a lot of different scenarios, so is often qualifies with some explanatory text underneath.
A fork next to a glass is the international symbol of “food safe” material. It effectively means that the material used in the product / packaging is safe for food contact, and will not leach dangerous substances etc
Resembling a kite, the “Kitemark” logo is a trademark of the British Standards Institute, and indicates that the product within the packaging meets specific standards (ascertained by ongoing testing). Please note permission for use is required.
The CE logo is used to declare that the product within the packaging meets the applicable requirements of specific EC directives (this only applies to specific product types). Please note that permission for use is required.
05: Recycling Symbols
Recycling symbols commonly used on corrugated cardboard boxes
The below recycling symbols are those which are commonly used on corrugated packaging. For a more comprehensive list covering all of the icons and logos that may be used to indicate recyclability (and recycled content), please see this guide to recycling symbols on packaging.
Perhaps the most widely used / recognised of the recycling symbols, the Mobius loop indicates that the packaging / product is recyclable. Can also be displayed with a percentage symbol in the middle of the icon.
The tidy-man symbol – produced by the “keep Britain Tidy” campaign – doesn’t specifically relate to recycling, but acts a s a reminder to dispose of the packaging correctly (i.e. not litter).
The corrugated recycles logo is a free to use symbol developed by the Corrugated Case Association, highlighting that the cardboard packaging can be recycled.
Using packaging symbols on your boxes
The above list of symbols is not exhaustive, and you may find that you require specialist or specific packaging symbols for your own application.
However, for the majority of businesses that use corrugated transit packaging, using the correct number and types of logos from the above options can have a surprisingly large impact on how well your packaging performs within your supply chain or delivery networks.
Should you have any questions regarding any of the symbols included (or not included) here however, then please do not hesitate to get in touch.