Important SVG concepts

Graphical Objects

With any XML grammar, consideration has to be given to what exactly is being modeled. For textual formats, modeling is typically at the level of paragraphs and phrases, rather than individual nouns, adverbs, or phonemes. Similarly, SVG models graphics at the level of graphical objects rather than individual points.

SVG provides a general path element, which can be used to create a huge variety of graphical objects, and also provides common basic shapes such as rectangles and ellipses. These are convenient for hand coding and may be used in the same ways as the more general path element. SVG provides fine control over the coordinate system in which graphical objects are defined and the transformations that will be applied during rendering.


It would have been possible to define some standard symbols that SVG would provide. But which ones? There would always be additional symbols for electronics, cartography, flowcharts, etc., that people would need that were not provided until the “next version”. SVG allows users to create, re-use and share their own symbols without requiring a centralized registry. Communities of users can create and refine the symbols that they need, without having to ask a committee. Designers can be sure exactly of the graphical appearance of the symbols they use and not have to worry about unsupported symbols.

Symbols may be used at different sizes and orientations, and can be restyled to fit in with the rest of the graphical composition.

Raster Effects

Many existing Web graphics use the filtering operations found in paint packages to create blurs, shadows, lighting effects and so on. With the client-side rasterization used with vector formats, such effects might be thought impossible. SVG allows the declarative specification of filters, either singly or in combination, which can be applied on the client side when the SVG is rendered. These are specified in such a way that the graphics are still scalable and displayable at different resolutions.


Graphically rich material is often highly dependent on the particular font used and the exact spacing of the glyphs. In many cases, designers convert text to outlines to avoid any font substitution problems. This means that the original text is not present and thus searchability and accessibility suffer. In response to feedback from designers, SVG includes font elements so that both text and graphical appearance are preserved.


Animation can be produced via script-based manipulation of the document, but scripts are difficult to edit and interchange between authoring tools is harder. Again in response to feedback from the design community, SVG includes declarative animation elements which were designed collaboratively by the SVG and SYMM Working Groups. This allows the animated effects common in existing Web graphics to be expressed in SVG.

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