The cellular architecture of tubular organs suggests striking similarities in the mechanisms of tubulogenesis between species. The formation of the Drosophila respiratory organ (trachea) highlights the basic principles of branch patterning and tube growth that generate a highly elaborate but stereotyped epithelial tubular network. Oriented cell migration, changes in cell shape, selective growth of the apical cell membrane and intracellular lumen formation are essential events in this process. These morphogenetic processes build four structurally distinct classes of tubes that facilitate optimal airflow and gas exchange with target tissues. The molecular players in these plots include attractant and repellent signals, differentiation factors that cause a high diversity of cell fates within the epithelium, and determinants of tube formation and dimensions.