The purpose of this Concept is to highlight some of the most recent and promising methods for the preparation of tailored catalysts by designing and preparing the component building blocks and by assembling them in a controlled fashion. We want to emphasize how rational design and synthesis of catalysts must be coupled to precise catalytic and structural characterization of the systems in an ideal feedback loop. New catalyst design and preparation techniques, dictated by information about the active sites that the specific application requires, are frequently available. The building blocks for developing these novel catalysts include colloidal methods for the preparation of uniform nanostructures, physical methods for rational assembly of the building blocks (Langmuir–Blodgett, liquid–air self-assembly), and development of rational interactions between the building blocks for enhanced activity of the assemblies. These methods, which apply techniques normally used in other fields of nanotechnology to catalysis, offer exciting opportunities to help improve currently available catalytic systems in terms of activity, stability and selectivity.