BPMN Symbols and Meanings

Don’t know how to read and understand BPMN symbols? So you are at the right place because here you get all the information about the BPMN symbols with their name and description.

1. What are BPMN Symbols?

BPMN, which stands for Business Process Model and Notation, is a popular diagramming model that is used to depict end-to-end business activities. These diagrams are mostly used to depict how any business functions and can include all kinds of activities in it. Since there can be so many BPMN symbols, mastering them can be tough. Don’t worry – I have listed all the major BPMN symbols and their meanings in this elaborative post to help you understand their relevance and implementation.

BPMN Example

2. Common BPMN Symbols

While there are all kinds of BPMN symbols, we can classify them into four major categories: Flow Objects, Connecting Objects, Swimlanes, and Artifacts.

So to overcome this problem we use electronic symbols because they are easy to draw and this makes circuit easily. Below is a list of the most commonly used electrical symbols.

Flow Objects

As the name suggests, these symbols depict the overall flow in a BPMN diagram and would make its backbone. Ideally, flow objects in a BPMN diagram can be of three types: Events, Activities, and Gateways.

  • Events: It depicts an event that takes place in the business process flow. It is simply represented by a circle and can accompany any other icon that depicts the present state of the event.
  • Activities: Activities take place between different events in a BPMN diagram. They can imply a change or a task that an event undertook and led to any other event. We use rounded rectangles to represent activities in a BPMN diagram.
  • Gateways: Gateways are considered as decision points in a BPMN diagram, and they can split or merge your process. These BPMN symbols are represented by diamond-shaped indicators.

Connecting Objects

Connecting Objects simply depict how various other entities in a BPMN diagram are connected. There can be 3 different kinds of connections in business processes that use directional arrows to represent their flow.


Swimlane symbols are majorly used to organize our BPMN diagram and various entities in it. It consists of a “pool” that can depict an entire department of your company and various “lanes” that can help us distinguish processes in the system.


Lastly, you can also use artifacts to provide additional context to your BPMN diagrams. There can be all kinds of artifacts that you can use such as annotations, data objects, or groups.

3. Flow Objects in a BPMN Diagram

As I have listed above, when it comes to the overall classification of BPMN symbols and meaning, Flow Objects can be of three types: Events, Activities, and Gateways.

3.1 BPMN Event Symbols

Events are the most important entities in any BPMN diagram as they constitute the backbone of the entire process. When it comes to a broader classification, there can be Start, Intermediate, or End events. Though, we can add more content to them by adding various icons.

Symbol Name Description
BPMN Symbols - Start Event Start Event It represents the starting of the business process and is depicted by a plain circle.
BPMN Symbols - Intermediate Event Intermediate Event It represents any event that comes in between the start and the end events and is depicted by a circle with double borders.
BPMN Symbols - End Event End Event It represents the final stage of a business process model and is depicted by a circle with a solid border.

The above-listed BPMN symbols are associated with no action, but we can have all kinds of events in a process. To depict them, we use dedicated icons with the start, intermediate, and end events that can give them further context.

BPMN Symbols

3.2 BPMN Activity Symbols

A business process can also have all kinds of activities that let us know how an event operates. While there can be several BPMN symbols and meanings for activities, the following icons are mostly used.

Symbol Name Description
BPMN Symbols - Task Task This depicts any task that an event can perform. It is the simplest activity that can’t be broken down further.
BPMN Symbols - Collapsed Sub-process Collapsed Sub-process This symbol represents a group of tasks (that are known as sub-processes) that are combined in one place.
BPMN Symbols - Transaction Transaction This is a special identity of a sub-process that would involve a payment or a transaction.
BPMN Symbols - Call Activity Call Activity A Call Activity is a global sub-process that you can take as a reference anywhere in the diagram.

3.3 BPMN Gateway Symbols

The third category of Flow Objects in BPMN diagrams is for gateways that would depict any decision or the distribution of flow in the process.

Symbol Name Description
BPMN Symbols - Exclusive Exclusive Once the process is evaluated, it would break the flow into two or more paths that are mutually exclusive to each other.
BPMN Symbols - Event-based Event-based An event-based gateway is also associated with a single path, but it evaluates if an event has occurred to meet the requirements.
BPMN Symbols - Exclusive event-based Exclusive event-based In this, a new event is started when each (exclusive) condition of the flow is met for the pre-defined event.
BPMN Symbols - Parallel Parallel The parallel gateway can represent two or more concurrent tasks that are not dependent on each other.
BPMN Symbols - Parallel event-based Parallel event-based In this gateway, multiple tasks are allowed to be processed, but they are dependent on the occurrence of a specific event.
BPMN Symbols - Inclusive Inclusive This gateway breaks the overall flow of the process into multiple flows that can have dedicated triggering events.
BPMN Symbols - Complex Complex It is used to describe a complex flow in our business process. For instance, when a business gateway has multiple flows with different factors.

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4. Connecting Objects in BPMN Diagrams

As you can see, there can be all kinds of events and activities in a business process that can form its overall foundation. Besides that, you would also need to connect BPMN symbols to establish a connection between various entities. These connecting objects can be of three types – sequence flow, message flow, or associate.

Symbol Name Description
BPMN Symbols - Sequence Flow Symbol Sequence Flow Symbol It is used to depict the flow in a process that is in sequential order. It is represented by a solid line with directional arrows.
BPMN Symbols - Message Flow Symbol Message Flow Symbol It simply represents how a message is shared across a process and is depicted by dotted lines with directional arrows.
BPMN Symbols - Associate Symbol Associate Symbol It depicts any kind of association or relationship between artifacts and other objects (represented by a dotted line).

5. Swimlanes in BPMN Diagrams

Swimlanes are one of the most important BPMN symbols as they provide an overall framework for the siwmlane diagram. Using these symbols, we can organize business processes into different categories.

Here, you can see the overall representation of a pool with different lanes, forming an overall representation of swimlanes. A “pool” can be any specific division in your business or organization (like a marketing or production department in your company). A pool is represented by a vertical block that sits on the top of the diagram.

Now, a pool can have divisions that are represented by lanes. We use horizontal bars that are derived from the pool. For instance, if you are considering the marketing department as a pool, then things like social media marketing, affiliate marketing, guerrilla marketing, etc. can be its lanes.

6. Artifacts in BPMN Diagrams

Lastly, there can be all kinds of artifacts like annotations, data models, and groups in a BPMN diagram. While these BPMN symbols and meanings might not be relevant to a specific event or activity, they add value to the overall system for sure.

Symbol Name Description
BPMN Symbols - Annotations Annotations Annotations are special BPMN symbols that are used for commenting. They are represented by a line and a square (with a comment inside).
BPMN Symbols - Groups Groups Groups are used as an organizational tool to represent common tasks in one place.
BPMN Symbols - Data Data It simply represents any piece of information that exists in the system.
BPMN Symbols - Incoming Data Incoming Data It depicts any incoming data that is required by a specific task in the system.
BPMN Symbols - Outgoing Data Outgoing Data It represents any piece of information that is produced by a task or an event in the system.
BPMN Symbols - Data Collection Data Collection It simply signifies a collective piece of information that is produced by the system.
BPMN Symbols - Data Storage Data Storage It represents an entity that is responsible for storing data in the system.

7. BPMN Notation Symbols PDF

We have created a printable BPMN Notation Symbols PDF file that you can download and print if you want a quick reference. You can download the file by clicking on the image below.

BPMN Notation Symbols PDF
Click the image to download BPMN Notation Symbols PDF.

8. Expert Tips for Using BPMN Symbols

By now, you would be able to know more about various BPMN symbols and their meaning. Though, if you want to make the most of these symbols and come up with stunning BPMN diagrams, then consider following these suggestions:

8.1 Use a Professional Diagramming Tool

To get the best results in less time, you can consider using a professional diagramming tool like EdrawMax Online. The application is available online and for desktops with an extensive range of resources. You can readily import thousands of diagramming entities and come up with more than 280 different diagram types via EdrawMax.

The best part is that EdrawMax is extremely user-friendly and would let you create all sorts of diagrams with drag and drop actions. You can also explore its extensive range of templates to make your job even easier.

8.2 Explore all BPMN Symbols in EdrawMax

If you are using EdrawMax, then you can find all the above-listed BPMN diagrams that you can readily use. Just go to your canvas and search for the BPMN symbols from the library option. Afterward, you can choose to load the entire kit of BPMN symbols that you can use in EdrawMax easily.

BPMN Symbols

8.3 Import BPMN Symbols in EdrawMax from Multiple Sources

Furthermore, you can also choose to import BPMN symbols from any other source to your EdrawMax account. Just go to the sidebar and click on the Import icon for your library. This will open a new pop-up window that would let you import images, symbols, SVG, VSSX files, and so on.

BPMN Symbols

9. More Questions About BPMN Symbols

What are the common BPMN symbols?

There are 4 common BPMN symbols - Flow Objects, Connecting Objects, Swimlanes, and Artifacts. Furthermore, Flow Objects can be classified as Events, Activities, and Gateways.

What are the basic shapes used in BPMN diagrams?

BPMN diagrams use all kinds of shapes such as circles, squares, rhombuses, connecting lines, and so on. While circles are mostly used to depict events, squares can represent activities, and rhombuses can depict gateways.

What is the difference between flowchart and BPMN notations?

There are only a handful of notations in flowcharts that can’t help us identify the present state of the model. On the other hand, BPMN notations are more evolved and can provide an in-depth view of the system with respect to its events, activities, data flow, processing, and so on.

10. Conclusion

That’s a wrap, everyone! I’m sure that this guide would have helped you know more about BPMN symbols and their meaning. As you can see, there can be so many kinds of BPMN symbols that we can use. I would recommend going through these major symbols so that you can easily come up with a BPMN diagram without any hassle. Besides that, you can also use a BPMN diagram tool like EdrawMax Online in which you can find all these BPMN symbols, BPMN examples and create stunning BPMN diagrams in a jiffy.

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