The organized assembly of particles into superstructures is typically governed by specific molecular interactions or external directing factors associated with the particle building blocks, both of which are particle-dependent. These superstructures are of interest to a variety of fields because of their distinct mechanical, electronic, magnetic and optical properties. Here, we establish a facile route to a diverse range of superstructures based on the polyphenol surface-functionalization of micro- and nanoparticles, nanowires, nanosheets, nanocubes and even cells. This strategy can be used to access a large number of modularly assembled superstructures, including core-satellite, hollow and hierarchically organized supraparticles. Colloidal-probe atomic force microscopy and molecular dynamics simulations provide detailed insights into the role of surface functionalization and how this facilitates superstructure construction. Our work provides a platform for the rapid generation of superstructured assemblies across a wide range of length scales, from nanometres to centimetres.