We report the design rules for amphiphilic coatings of single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) to achieve optimal dispersion. Their knowledge and understanding is critical to exploit the full potential of SWCNTs in structural and functional applications where the tubes need to be individualized and rebundling must be prevented. The required repulsive interactions can be generated by a coating of amphiphilic molecules only if the right structures are achieved. Our article provides understanding of the relationship between the adsorbed structures and the dispersive forces, gives guidance on how these structures can be obtained and demonstrates the transferability of the general concept to other nanostructures. © 2011 American Chemical Society.