Interest in biophysical studies on the interaction of antimicrobial peptides and lipids has strongly increased because of the rapid emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains. An understanding of the molecular mechanism(s) of membrane perturbation by these peptides will allow a design of novel peptide antibiotics as an alternative to conventional antibiotics. Differential scanning calorimetry and X-ray diffraction studies have yielded a wealth of quantitative information on the effects of antimicrobial peptides on membrane structure as well as on peptide location. These studies clearly demonstrated that antimicrobial peptides show preferential interaction with specific phospholipid classes. Furthermore, they revealed that in addition to charge-charge interactions, membrane curvature strain and hydrophobic mismatch between peptides and lipids are important parameters in determining the mechanism of membrane perturbation. Hence, depending on the molecular properties of both lipid and peptide, creation of bilayer defects such as phase separation or membrane thinning, pore formation, promotion of nonlamellar lipid structures or bilayer disruption by the carpet model or detergent-like action, may occur. Moreover, these studies suggest that these different processes may represent gradual steps of membrane perturbation. A better understanding of the mutual dependence of these parameters will help to elucidate the molecular mechanism of membrane damage by antimicrobial peptides and their target membrane specificity, keys for the rationale design of novel types of peptide antibiotics.