The leaf and root epidermis in Arabidopsis provide ideal systems in which to explore the mechanisms that underlie the patterned assignment of cell fates during development. Extensive experimental studies have uncovered a complex interlocked feedback network that operates within the epidermis to coordinate the choice between hair and nonhair fates. A number of recent studies using mathematical models have begun to study this network, highlighting new mechanisms that have subsequently been confirmed in model-directed experiments. These studies illustrate the potential of integrated modeling and experimentation to shed new light on developmental processes. Moreover, these models enable systems-level comparative analyses that may help understand the origin and role of properties, such as robustness and redundancy in developmental systems and, concomitantly, the evolution of development itself. J. Exp. Zool. (Mol. Dev. Evol.) 316:241–253, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.