The neural crest is an excellent model system for the study of cell type diversification during embryonic development due to its multipotency, motility, and ability to form a broad array of derivatives ranging from neurons and glia, to cartilage, bone, and melanocytes. As a uniquely vertebrate cell population, it also offers important clues regarding vertebrate origins. In the past 30 yr, introduction of recombinant DNA technology has facilitated the dissection of the genetic program controlling neural crest development and has provided important insights into gene regulatory mechanisms underlying cell migration and differentiation. More recently, new genomic approaches have provided a platform and tools that are changing the depth and breadth of our understanding of neural crest development at a "systems" level. Such advances provide an insightful view of the regulatory landscape of neural crest cells and offer a new perspective on developmental as well as stem cell and cancer biology.