Graphic Design Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for Graphic Design professionals, students, and enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Lubuntu, a flavor of Ubuntu, ships with a few icon themes including elementary. Since many of the icons are .svg files, it's somewhat easy to make minor tweaks to suit one's visual preferences. While doing so, I noticed a feature common to several .svg icons which I don't understand. I hope to illustrate this feature with an small example:

elementary icons

In the image above, consider system-restart-panel.svg. I'm including its code after scouring for brevity:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" standalone="no"?>
<!-- Created with Inkscape ( -->
<svg id="svg3211" xmlns:rdf="" xmlns="" height="16" width="12" version="1.0" xmlns:cc="" xmlns:xlink="" xmlns:dc="">
 <defs id="defs3213">
  <linearGradient id="linearGradient2878" y2="5" gradientUnits="userSpaceOnUse" x2="15.5" gradientTransform="translate(-6,-4)" y1="19" x1="15.5">
   <stop id="stop4629-22-2" stop-color="#49a3d2" offset="0"/>
   <stop id="stop4631-4-9" stop-color="#3470b4" offset=".705"/>
   <stop id="stop4633-7-6" stop-color="#1b5699" offset="1"/>
 <path id="path3224" opacity=".7" d="m6 2v2c-3.31 0-6 2.69-6 6s2.69 6 6 6 6-2.69 6-6h-2c0 2.2-1.79 4-4 4s-4-1.8-4-4c0-2.21 1.79-4 4-4v2l5-3-5-3z" fill-rule="evenodd" fill="#fff"/>
 <path id="path4199" d="m6 1v2c-3.31 0-6 2.69-6 6s2.69 6 6 6 6-2.69 6-6h-2c0 2.2-1.79 4-4 4s-4-1.8-4-4c0-2.21 1.79-4 4-4v2l5-3-5-3z" fill-rule="evenodd" fill="url(#linearGradient2878)"/>

The common feature I referred to above is the presence of (in this case) path3224. This path has fill="#fff" and is slightly offset from the "real" visible path, path4199, which has a gradient of blues.

In short, my question is this: what is the purpose of this other path?

share|improve this question
Next week: How to code a fashion magazine using postscript :) – TehMacDawg Jun 1 '13 at 12:13
What does your comment mean? If you think my question is inappropriate, you have the rep to downvote it :) – user13098 Jun 1 '13 at 12:31
No, no, I was just alluding to an old joke about geeks in design (Postscript can be seen as a language for coding, too…) – TehMacDawg Jun 1 '13 at 15:42
So what is it about my question that required allusion to an old joke? Maybe you (or I) can edit the question so that it doesn't merit comments of the sort you made. – user13098 Jun 1 '13 at 16:20
It's the notion of graphic design by manual coding. It's all in good humour, though. Sorry if it pissed you off. – TehMacDawg Jun 1 '13 at 17:23
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The second arrow in the icon file casts a light "shadow" with white having 70% opacity. This will not be seen when rendered on a white background but on a coloured or grey background it is useful to increase contrast and visibility:

enter image description here with shadow enter image description here no shadow

share|improve this answer
I had the same speculation. If this was intentional, it sure is weird. It doesn't look that great. It looks even worse on the other icons, take for example the WiFi icon. Close up you can see that it is a sloppy execution, but at small resolutions it just makes the icon look... bad. Perhaps this was a case of "this looks alright on this one icon I tested it on, let's batch-apply it to the rest!" – JohnB Jun 1 '13 at 16:59
Yeah - it could definitely be done better. In this case a reason could be that the icons had to be as lean as possible, as Lubuntu claims to be a very lightweight Linux distribution. – Takkat Jun 1 '13 at 17:13

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.