The separation of oil–water mixtures is a widely utilized unit operation, used for handling a wide variety of mixtures from industry including: petroleum drilling and refining, fracking, waste-water treatment, mining, metal fabrication and machining, textile and leather processing, and rendering. Membrane-based methods have become increasingly attractive for the separation of oil–water mixtures because they are relatively energy-efficient, can be readily used to separate a variety of industrial feed streams, and provide consistent permeate quality. In this perspective, we discuss the design strategies for membranes with selective wettability i.e., membranes that are either selectively wet by, or prevent wetting by, the oil or water phase. The design strategies include the parameterization of two important physical characteristics: the surface porosity and the breakthrough pressure. We also discuss how they are related for membranes with a periodic geometry. On the basis of this understanding, we explore principles that allow for the systematic design of membranes with selective wettability. A review of the current literature on the separation of oil–water mixtures using membranes with differing wettabilities is also presented. Finally, we conclude by discussing the current challenges and outlook for the future of the field.