This article presents general concepts that have guided important developments in our recent research progress regarding room-temperature phosphorescent dyes and their potential applications. We first elaborate the theoretical background for emissive metal complexes and the strategic design of the chelating C-linked 2-pyridylazolate ligands, followed by their feasibility in functionalization and modification in an aim to fine-tune the chemical and photophysical properties. Subsequently, incorporation of 2-pyridylazolate chromophores is illustrated in the synthesis of the highly emissive, charge-neutral Os, Ru, Ir, and Pt complexes. Insights into their photophysical properties are gained from spectroscopy, relaxation dynamics, and theoretical approaches, from which the lowest-lying excited states, competitive radiative decay, and radiationless processes are then analyzed in detail. In view of applications, their potentials for OLEDs have been evaluated. The results, in combination with the fundamental basis, give a conceptual design contributed to the future advances in the field of OLEDs.