Power symbol

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Crystal Project Shutdown.png
An icon representation of the IEC 5009 on/off symbol. This is the most commonly used power control symbol.
The power button on Xbox 360 showing power symbol in green

A power symbol is a symbol indicating that a control activates or deactivates a particular device. Universal power symbols are described in the International Electrotechnical Commission 60417 standard, Graphical symbols for use on equipment, appearing in the 1973 edition of the document (as IEC 417) and informally used earlier.[1]

The well known on/off power symbol was the result of the logical evolution in user interface design. Originally, most early power controls consisted of switches that were toggled between two states demarcated by the words On and Off. As technology became more ubiquitous, these English words were replaced by the universal numeral symbols 1 and 0 (typically without serifs) to bypass language barriers. This "1" and "0" standard is still used on toggle power switches.

To create the symbol for a single on/off button, the "1" and "0" symbols were super-imposed onto each other to create the universally recognized power symbol used today. Because of widespread use of this symbol, a campaign was launched to add the set of characters to Unicode. [2] In February 2015, the proposal was accepted by Unicode and as of late 2015 the IEC power symbol family was in Stage 7 of Unicode character development and "either in ISO approval ballot or pending ISO publication." [3] The symbols are scheduled to be included in Unicode 9.0,[4] which is set to be released in June 2016. It will be in the "Miscellaneous Technical" block, with code points 23FB-FE.[4]


IEC5007 On Symbol.svg
IEC 5007, the power on symbol (line), appearing on a button or one end of a toggle switch indicates that the control places the equipment into a fully powered state. It comes from the binary system ("1" means "on").
IEC5008 Off Symbol.svg
IEC 5008, the power off symbol (circle) on a button or toggle, indicates that using the control will disconnect power to the device. It comes from the binary system ("0" means "off").
IEC5009 Standby Symbol.svg
IEC 5009, the standby symbol (line partially within a broken circle), indicates a sleep mode or low power state. The switch does not fully disconnect the device from its power supply. This may appear on a toggle switch opposite a power on symbol, alone on a pushbutton that places the device into a standby state, or alone on a button that switches between on and standby. Alternatively, under IEEE 1621, this symbol simply means "power".[5]
IEC5010 On Off Symbol.svg
IEC 5010, the power on-off symbol (line within a circle), is used on buttons that switch a device between on and fully off states.
Power sleep black cropped.svg
A waning crescent moon, indicating sleep mode, is added by IEEE 1621 as a replacement for the standby symbol.

Standby symbol ambiguity[edit]

Because the exact meaning of the standby symbol on a given device may be unclear until the control is tried, it has been proposed that a separate sleep symbol, a waning moon, instead be used to indicate a low power state. Proponents include the California Energy Commission and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Under this proposal, the older standby symbol would be redefined as a generic "power" indication, in cases where the difference between it and the other power symbols would not present a safety concern. This alternative symbolism was published as IEEE standard 1621 on December 8, 2004.[1][6][7][8]

In popular culture[edit]

The standby symbol, frequently seen on personal computers, is a popular icon among technology enthusiasts. It is often found emblazoned on fashion items including T-shirts and cuff-links.[9] It has also been used in corporate logos, such as for Gateway, Inc. (circa 2002), Staples, Inc. easytech, Exelon, Toggl and others,[1] and even as personal tattoos. In March 2010, the New York City health department announced they would be using it on condom wrappers.[10] The 2012 TV series Revolution, set in a dystopian future in which "the power went out", as the opening narration puts it, stylized the last letter 'o' of its title as the standby symbol.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (December 2002). "The Power Control User Interface Standard (consultant report)" (PDF). California Energy Commission. Retrieved 2007-04-26. 
  2. ^ "Unicode Proposal 14009 Power Symbol" (PDF). Unicode. Unicode Consortium. Retrieved Dec 23, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Unicode Power Symbol Update". Unicode Character Pipeline. Unicode Consortium. Retrieved Dec 23, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b West, Andrew (2016-01-10). "What's new in Unicode 9.0?". 
  5. ^ Nordman, Bruce (2005-05-02). "Power Control Made Easy". EE Product News. Retrieved 2007-04-26. 
  6. ^ Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (December 2002). "Draft Standard for User Interface Elements in Power Control of Electronic Devices Employed in Office/Consumer Environments (consultant report)" (PDF). California Energy Commission. Retrieved 2007-04-26. 
  7. ^ "Save Energy at Your PC; Energy Scientists Propose Color-Coding Standard for PC Sleep Mode". American Institute of Physics. 2005-06-01. Retrieved 2007-04-26. 
  8. ^ "Power Management Controls - User Interface Standard - IEEE 1621". IEEE. Retrieved 2007-04-26. 
  9. ^ See for example "Adafruit's iCufflinks pulsate with the power of your Mac love". 
  10. ^ Smith, Robert (2010-03-09). "Official Condom Design: New York's New Sex Symbol". National Public Radio. Retrieved 2011-02-09. 

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