It is well established that developmental programs act during embryogenesis to determine animal morphogenesis. How these developmental cues produce specific cell shape during morphogenesis, however, has remained elusive. We addressed this question by studying the morphological differentiation of the Drosophila epidermis, governed by a well-known circuit of regulators leading to a stereotyped pattern of smooth cells and cells forming actin-rich extensions (trichomes). It was shown that the transcription factor Shavenbaby plays a pivotal role in the formation of trichomes and underlies all examined cases of the evolutionary diversification of their pattern. To gain insight into the mechanisms of morphological differentiation, we sought to identify shavenbaby's downstream targets. We show here that Shavenbaby controls epidermal cell shape, through the transcriptional activation of different classes of cellular effectors, directly contributing to the organization of actin filaments, regulation of the extracellular matrix, and modification of the cuticle. Individual inactivation of shavenbaby's targets produces distinct trichome defects and only their simultaneous inactivation prevent trichome formation. Our data show that shavenbaby governs an evolutionarily conserved developmental module consisting of a set of genes collectively responsible for trichome formation, shedding new light on molecular mechanisms acting during morphogenesis and the way they can influence evolution of animal forms.