The neocortex represents the brain structure that has been subjected to a major expansion in its relative size during the course of mammalian evolution. An exquisite coordination of appropriate growth of competent territories along multiple axes and their spatial patterning is required for regionalization of the cortical primordium and the formation of functional areas. The achievement of such a highly complex architecture relies on a precise orchestration of the proliferation of progenitors, onset of neurogenesis, spatio-temporal generation of distinct cell types and control of their migration. We will review recent work on alternative molecular mechanisms that, via the migration of signaling cells/structures, participate in coordinating growth and spatial patterning in the developing cerebral cortex. By integrating temporal and spatial parameters as well as absolute levels of signaling this novel strategy might represent a general mechanism for long-range patterning in large structures, in addition to the passive diffusion of morphogens.