The symbol is used to signify a JIRA Software project. There are separate symbols for Service Desk and Business projects. They're used to give the user a quick visual clue as to what sort of project they're looking at.
Currently there's no way to configure them through the JIRA UI.
I have multiple projects that use variations of the same base workflow. The variations depend on the requirements of the project or issue type. The variations mostly come in the form of new statuses ...
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