The correct execution of many cellular processes, such as division and motility, requires the cell to adopt a specific shape. Physically, these shapes are determined by the interplay of the plasma membrane and internal cellular driving factors. While the plasma membrane defines the boundary of the cell, processes inside the cell can result in the generation of forces that deform the membrane. These processes include protein binding, the assembly of protein superstructures, and the growth and contraction of cytoskeletal networks. Due to the complexity of the cell, relating observed membrane deformations back to internal processes is a challenging problem. Here, we review cell shape changes in endocytosis, cell adhesion, cell migration and cell division and discuss how by modeling membrane deformations we can investigate the inner working principles of the cell.