Communication between and within cells is essential for multicellular life. While intracellular signal transduction pathways are often specified in molecular terms, the information content they transmit remains poorly defined. Here, we review research efforts to merge biological experimentation with concepts of communication that emerge from the engineering disciplines of signal processing and control theory. We discuss the challenges of performing experiments that quantitate information transfer at the molecular level, and we highlight recent studies that have advanced toward a clearer definition of the information content carried by signaling molecules. Across these studies, we emphasize a theme of increasingly well-matched experimental and theoretical approaches to decode the data streams directing cellular behavior.