The subventricular zone (SVZ) of the perinatal forebrain gives rise to both neurons and glia. The mechanisms governing the phenotypic specification of progenitors within this heterogeneous germinal zone are unclear. However, the characterization of subpopulations of SVZ cells has given us a better understanding of the basic architecture of the SVZ and presents us with the opportunity to ask more detailed questions regarding phenotype specification and cell fate. Recent work demonstrating the embryonic origins of SVZ cells is summarized, and a model describing the formation of the perinatal SVZ, noting contributions of cells from pallial as well as subpallial germinal zones, is presented. We further address differences among classes of SVZ cells based on molecular profile, phenotype, and migration behavior and present a model summarizing the organization of perinatal SVZ cells along coronal, sagittal, and horizontal axes. A detailed description of the SVZ in the adult, outlining classes of cells based on morphology, molecular profile, and proliferative behavior, was recently reported by Doetsch et al. (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 93:14895–14900, 1997). Potential relationships among cells within the perinatal and adult SVZ will be discussed. GLIA 43:52–61, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.