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Working on a project, I need 2 icons for Vegan and Vegetarian to display at a glance nutritional information. The problem that I'm running into is that there doesn't seem to be a good way to have each icon stand alone and the user knowing exactly what it stands for, example below.

Vt vs Vg

Vt is fairly easy to understand as vegetarian. But Vg runs the problem of not knowing that its Vegan without seeing the other icon. Is there a standard way for conveying vegan and vegetarian?

Additional Specs: The icons will be used in a variety of sizes from 150x150px to 24x24px. Here's an example of the current icon set: http://imgur.com/2NkXIcN

  • 21
    as a non vegan or vegetarian, I'd have no idea what even Vt or Vg mean – Luciano Mar 28 '17 at 12:51
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    While I would not consider this question off-topic here, you might also get good answers on Veganism & Vegetarianism. – Wrzlprmft Mar 28 '17 at 18:17
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    @Luciano as a 30+ year vegetarian, I'd have no idea what even Vt or Vg mean – Dhaust Mar 29 '17 at 4:39
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    I've seen V and VV (sometimes with the V as a plant sprout). That's maybe more clear than V+: VV is more vegetarian than vegetarian, while V+ could be seen as "vegetables plus other stuff". I don't know if there's any standard. Usually on a menu you should have a legend with the meanings of all the icons. – Max Mar 29 '17 at 8:54
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    Fwiw on menus around here (NYC, the alternative diet crowds are heavy) usually there's just a little green leaf or something next to the menu item, with a footnote at the bottom (which will generally clarify vegetarian vs vegan). It probably doesn't matter what symbol you use if you put a small explanatory footnote in. Green and leaves in general seem pretty universally recognizable in the context of food. I rarely see the letters V or VV (not sure that I ever have), and definitely have never seen Vt or Vg. – Jason C Mar 30 '17 at 20:38

12 Answers 12

18

The standard for vegetarian is generally just a "V", usually in a green circle or something similar, and that'll be pretty much universally understood.

The Vegan Society has "the Vegan Trademark" which has been around a long time and since it explicitly says "Vegan" there's no ambiguity as there is with "Vg" vs "Vt". I have seen "Vg" and "Vt" used in the past, and even as someone who was vegan for ~12 years it wasn't clear to me what they meant; so stay away from using those.

Something that's worth pointing out though... If something is vegan it is by definition also vegetarian so there's generally no need for both icons; if someone sees "Vegan" they already know it's vegetarian.

enter image description here

  • 1
    What would be your thoughts on V and V+? I'm limited on space for the icons (24x24) and smaller for some uses so I don't think the Vegan Society TM would be the best solution for my use case. I've updated the post with links to the icon sets. – Jobokai Mar 28 '17 at 13:33
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    Will the word "vegan" be used anywhere else? "V" and "V+" would be fine if it said "vegan" somewhere else too... as someone who regularly has to check if food is vegan or not it's never clear to me if an icon implies vegan or vegetarian unless it explicitly says so somewhere – Cai Mar 28 '17 at 13:37
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    In that case I'd say "V" and "V+" would (IMO) be better than the current. "V" is generally accepted as vegetarian and "more" than that could logically be taken to be vegan, as long as that is backed up by an explicit label at some point – Cai Mar 28 '17 at 13:41
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    To me, V suggests vegetables, and V+ suggests vegetables PLUS other stuff, (lacto-ovo, etc) so it's definitely ambiguous. – barbecue Mar 28 '17 at 17:40
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    @JackAidley I agree with you, however it's out of my control. I'm not the one controlling our food database system. I believe they are flagging specific items as Vegan and others as Vegetarian. But we could recommend them to flag an item as both if it applies. Good point. – Jobokai Mar 30 '17 at 12:48
23

These terms are too closely related to be differentiated by just using an acronym without any context. Without getting into too much detail, Vegetarian diet includes dairy, and Vegan is exclusively plant based.

With a quick trip to Google you will find plenty of examples of how to represent these items in a graphic form.

So vegetarian could have both a vegetable and a dairy item (milk or cheese, for example):

enter image description here

and vegan could be just a plant:

enter image description here

Although for the sake of consistency the vegetable symbol in both icons should be the same, would make it easier to understand the meaning of the icons.

7

My favorite Vietnamese place for several years used a circle with a diagonal bar across it (the classic 'no' sign) over a ?pig or maybe cow? for 'no meat' and the same 'no' sign over a swiss cheese wedge and an egg for 'no dairy or eggs'. Seemed to work out okay.

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    however, the cheese mark could easily just mean lactose-free (which is also a common diet, especially in Asia), so better be careful – yo' Mar 29 '17 at 6:50
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    Also you'd need to combine several icons just to imply "vegan": no eggs + no cow + no cheese + no pig + no chicken. That can take some space and it's not all that clear with a quick glance. – Luciano Mar 29 '17 at 8:26
  • My suggestion would be an icon for a vegetable (like broccoli) for vegetarian, and a crossed out animal (like a cow) for vegan with a legend somewhere on the first page. It's relatively self-explanatory and will lead people to look for the legend if they're unsure – Taegost Mar 29 '17 at 19:37
  • You mean this symbol? Or this ` ⃠ ` ? – phuclv Mar 31 '17 at 12:24
6

A green V and V+ is a solution that stuck with me after seeing it in few vegetarian/vegan friendly restaurants.

I don't think it is a standard per se, but IMHO it was easy to understand and differentiate between the two at a glance.

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    I think this is a great solution. Use the stylised 'V' where the right prong has a leaf, so you're semi-standard with the vegan logo that others have mentioned. The '+' indicates 'more than'. The only problem might be if you're not sure what the 'V' stands for in the first place, but this is the closest I've seen yet to a potential standard. – flith Mar 29 '17 at 12:24
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    @flith But does "V+" mean "vegan plus other ingredients" (i.e., vegetarian) or "vegetarian plus more restrictions" (i.e., vegan)? – David Richerby Mar 30 '17 at 13:48
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Given how many icons are in the set provided, and that most of them are pictorial rather than alphabetic, why not avoid letters entirely, and just use multiple symbols for each item to represent what's actually in the food?

Pragmatically speaking, most people just want to know how to avoid things they don't want in their diet, so show them what's in there rather than expecting them to understand a somewhat arbitrary designation like vegetarian.

If something has only plant ingredients, show only plant icons. If it's plant + dairy, it has both plant and dairy icons, etc. Combine with the No symbol to specifically indicate something is not included in an item that usually has it, such as a No Wheat icon for a non-wheat bread, or No Meat for a veggie burger. (Wheat example)

3

My experience (as a British vegan of ~20 years) is that the most common is to use "V" for vegetarian, and "Ve" for Vegan.

For example, see the menu for Zizzi: https://www.zizzi.co.uk/food

2

Just observe that vegan is "very" vegetarian. Not literally, but this makes sense to people. So use schema like:

  • * = vegetarian, ** = vegan
  • V = vegetarian, VV = vegan
  • (V) = vegetarian, ((V)) = vegan (getting complicated but the relation is yet clear)

or so forth.

In my experience if I can identify a pair of vegetarian-related symbols where one of them seems like the stronger version of the other, I quickly associate with vegetarian and vegan and know which is which.

Note this design relies on a good chance for a user to find both symbols and make the association. An accessible legend is not a bad thing here.

Note that adding modifier symbols can go back to being ambiguous. "V" for vegetarian with "Vg" for vegan could be confused for "vegan + gluten" or something (of course gluten is vegan, but do they know you know that?). If done clearly and consistently, the a la carte approach to what nutrient or allergen is in a food can be pretty neat and get a lot of information across cleanly. I've seen regular soup delis that have signage like "D=dairy, G=gluten, M=meat, F=fish, E=egg", where each indicator is additive, and everyone can sort out what they're looking for from there.

  • I like the VV=Vegan designation. That would be much clearer to me than V+, for example. – Lauren Ipsum Mar 31 '17 at 11:07
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What would be clearest to me would be a steak within a cancel sign for vegetarian, and the same but with milk, eggs, and steak for vegan.

0

You could try the same simple symbol but in different colors, like the V with a leaf provided by @luciano, but green for vegetarian and brown for vegan.

I know when I've been looking for items in a menu that are vegan/vegetarian, I immediately look down at the bottom of the menu for what denotes that, and then only zero in on those items. So if I'm vegan, I know just to look for brown symbols.

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    I'd avoid using just color for differentiating items, it could be more difficult to make it color-blindness-proof. – Luciano Mar 28 '17 at 15:53
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    I tend to agree with @Luciano. Additional concerns are that the green/brown distinction isn't intuitive (both are nature colours), and also it won't work in greyscale/black-and-white (for example, you have to photocopy or B&W print your menus or other materials). – flith Mar 29 '17 at 12:22
  • It is easy to test whether colour changes are colourblind friendly: colororacle.org – Jack Aidley Mar 30 '17 at 13:53
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As a vegan, I usually come across "V" for blindly vegetarian and "Ve"/"Vg" for vegan. Most dishes have both "V" and "Ve"/"Vg" when vegan, FWIW.

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I was also looking for this, but it appears there is no standard. I really liked the following icons though:

enter image description here enter image description here

I don't know who designed them because all websites I found them on (I used Google image search) appear to be unresponsive...

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I am not sure about you guys, but I used to work as a chef so from my experience people acknowledge 'V' as Vegan and "Vg' as Vegetarian.

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    Definitely disagree - I would assume V was vegetarian and Vg was Vegan, until I worked it out. – xorsyst Mar 29 '17 at 17:00
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    and and least two people have already posted the opposite (V as Vegetarian). – Lauren Ipsum Mar 31 '17 at 11:10

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