The obesity epidemic has focused attention on adipose tissue and the development of fat cells (i.e. adipocytes), which is known as adipogenesis. Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma and CCAAT/enhancer-binding proteins have emerged as master regulators of adipogenesis, and recent genome-wide studies have indicated widespread overlap in their transcriptional targets. In addition, new evidence has implicated many other factors as positive and negative regulators of adipocyte development. This review highlights recent advances in the field of adipogenesis, including newly identified determinants of brown adipocytes, the function of which is to burn rather than store energy. Improved understanding of brown and white adipocyte origins and the integrative biology of adipogenesis might lead to more effective strategies for the treatment of obesity and metabolic disease.