A blog about search, search skills, teaching search, learning how to search, learning how to use Google effectively, learning how to do research. It also covers a good deal of sensemaking and information foraging.
Sometimes you really need a specific KIND of image when searching. In particular, sometimes you want an image that can be scaled to an arbitrary size.
SVGs -- Scalable Vector Graphics -- are images that descriptions about how to draw the basic elements needed to create an image. That is, rather than compressing an image into a JPG or PNG, an SVG represents elements like lines, circles, polygons and more complex shapes as commands. Unlike the images typically returned by most search engines (for example, JPG, GIF and PNG), SVGs can be stretched to any size without the quality of the image suffering.
This makes SVGs ideally suited for diagrams that you're going to re-size to a much larger form (or much smaller). Think about looking for SVG when you need clip art, maps, logos, flags and scientific diagrams.
You can search for SVG images by doing a filetype: search.
If you want the easy way to do this, you can click “Images” in the left-hand panel, then click "Advanced Search” and then select the SVG filetype.
If you're a teacher, getting an SVG is often really handy when you want to make a large diagram of some chart. My favorite example is searching for an SVG of the periodic table of elements. I'd do this search like this: [ periodic table filetype:svg ]
Which then gives you lots of excellent options for downloading (and even editing, if you use a site like Clikr.com ). These SVGs can then be printed at an extremely large size without any degrading of the image quality.