Clathrin-coated vesicles (CCVs) are responsible for the transport of proteins between various compartments of the secretory and endocytic systems. Clathrin forms a scaffold around these vesicles that is linked to membranes by clathrin adaptors. The adaptors simultaneously bind to clathrin and to transmembrane proteins and/or phospholipids and can also interact with each other and with other components of the CCV formation machinery. The result is a collection of proteins that can make multiple, moderate strength (microM Kd) interactions and thereby establish the dynamic regulatable networks to drive vesicle genesis at the correct time and place in the cell. This review focuses on the structure of clathrin adaptors and how these structures provide functional information on the mechanism of CCV formation.