Every user on deviantART has a certain symbol in front of their name, and their symbol represents what "type" of account they have, or what "role" they play in the community.
In FAQ #106: What are the symbol next to each deviant's username?, you can read who has what symbol, but I don't think that FAQ does a very good job as far as educating people on what the symbols actually mean.
So I hope to be able to write good definitions for the most common user symbols in this article!
Symbols available to anybody:
There are four symbols which can be obtained by anyone who has a deviantART account. This doesn't mean you can choose which of these symbols you want to have, but means that it's possible for anybody can to meet the criteria to have the symbol if they desire.
!username - Closed Account
Accounts get an ! before their name under the following circumstances:
The user voluntarily deactivated their account.
The user was banned from deviantART by an administrator.
A user may voluntarily deactivate their account for whatever reason they see fit. This may be because they no longer wish to use deviantART, or sometimes it's because they just want to take a more serious break from the site. Once deactivated from this page, a user's page is wiped completely clean. After 48 hours since their deactivation, a user may reactivate their account up to 30 days after they deactivated and continue using the site. Until they reactivate their account, none of their submitted content is easily accessible. Once 30 days has passed since their deactivation, they cannot reactivate their account and all their content is deleted forever. Please note that accounts can't truly be "deleted" - upon deactivation, a user's comments will still remain visible all over the site.
If an administrator sees fit, a deviant's account may also be removed through a ban. This happens when a user doesn't follow the rules of deviantART. A banned user is able to submit a Ban Appeal to the Help Desk if they think their ban was unjustified or if they'd like to try and regain access to their account.
Deactivated and banned users can still log into deviantART and browse the site, mainly so that they can view their purchase history or submit a Ban Appeal. They can't however, make comments or interact with any other users in any way.
~username - Free deviantART Account
A regular user who doesn't have paid access to deviantART will have a ~ displayed next to their username. Anyone is free to set up a new deviantART account. All new accounts start with a ~.
People with free access to deviantART are able to use all the necessary features. They are able to submit deviations, write journals, customise their profile, administrate up to three groups, post in the forums, use the chat, and much more. Free accounts, however, will have advertisements displayed around the site and embedded into their profile pages.
*username - Premium Member
Premium Members pay a small amount of money to subscribe to deviantART - these people will receive extra "premium" features for use. Some of the benefits of Premium Membership are a wider range of profile customisation options, ability to use journal skins, ability to request critique on their deviations, and ability to administrate up to ten groups. Premium Members can also opt into becoming beta testers - which you can read about next. You can read about the full benefits of Premium Membership here.
=username - Official Beta Tester
People with an = beside their name are people who test new features of deviantART before they're released to the public. Beta Testers test the new features and spot any bugs they can find until the feature goes live for everyone. Beta Testers who find bugs can report them to devBUG. Any Premium Member can opt into becoming a Beta Tester at this page.
Symbols not available to anybody:
The next symbols are not available to anybody. It isn't possible to pay money or enable in option in your settings to obtain one of these symbols. As a result, these symbols are a bit more special and reserved, they are not as common as the ones above.
`username - Senior Member
Senior Members are generally members of the community who have a special symbol as a token of their contribution to deviantART and it's community. These people aren't administrators, and they don't have any special features that the rest of the community don't. There isn't really any set criteria for someone to become a Senior Member, but you can read some details here: FAQ #29: How do I become a Senior Member?
People may become Senior Members for the following reasons:
They were selected by the Director of Community Operations, fourteenthstar, to receive a Senior status.
This is how people most commonly receive Seniority. Quarterly, fourteenthstar selects a group of deviants she thinks deserve to receive Senior Membership. She makes an announcement in her journal on who these new people are. In addition to this, an award called the "Deviousness Award" is given out monthly. This is also selected by fourteenthstar, and the recipient is someone who really stands out in the community and deserves special recognition for their dedication.
They are a former staff member or Community Volunteer.
You can read more about these people later.
^username - Community Volunteer
Community Volunteers are selected by the Director of Community Relations, Moonbeam13. These people are responsible for special tasks in the community; such as selecting Daily Deviations, moderating the chats and forums, and acting as a bridge between the community and administrators. You can read more on volunteering here: FAQ #85: Can I be a volunteer on deviantART?
If you feel a certain piece of artwork deserves recognition as a Daily Deviation, you can suggest it to a Community Volunteer. If you come across a forum thread which you feel violates deviantART's rules or the rules of the forums, you can report it to an appropriate Community Volunteer, and they'll review the situation. You can view a full list of Community Volunteers and their assigned roles here.
Some fairly common misconceptions surrounding Community Volunteers is that they can carry out administrative actions such as banning an account. This is not true. Community Volunteers are not staff. They are not responsible for banning accounts, so they're not the correct people to see if someone is harassing you or if you think your friend's ban was unjustified. If you want to report someone, the correct place to do this is at the Help Desk. And now that I've mentioned it.. if your friend gets banned, there is nothing you can do about it. They need to login themselves and submit a Ban Appeal, like I mentioned when I went over banned accounts.
$username - deviantART Employee
People with a $ display next to their username are people who are employed by deviantART. These people come to a physical office and work on deviantART in areas such as advertising, community, development, marketing, and retailing; as their job to earn money. You can view a list of employees and their user accounts here.
I hope this article has provided you with some useful information regarding the user symbols on dA. I didn't mention all symbols in this article, just the most commonly found ones.
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to leave a comment on send me a note!