During the development of the nervous system, many different types of neuron are produced. As well as forming the correct type of neuron, each must also establish precise connections. Recent findings show that, because of shared gene programmes, neuronal identity is intimately linked to and coordinated with axonal behaviour. Peripheral sensory neurons provide an excellent system in which to study these interactions. This review examines how neuronal diversity is created in the PNS and describes proteins that help to direct the diversity of neuronal subtypes, cell survival, axonal growth and the establishment of central patterns of modality-specific connections.