The coordinated organization of cell membrane receptors into diverse micrometre-scale spatial patterns is emerging as an important theme of intercellular signalling, as exemplified by immunological synapses. Key characteristics of these patterns are that they transcend direct protein-protein interactions, emerge transiently and modulate signal transduction. Such cooperativity over multiple length scales presents new and intriguing challenges for the study and ultimate understanding of cellular signalling. As a result, new experimental strategies have emerged to manipulate the spatial organization of molecules inside living cells. The resulting spatial mutations yield insights into the interweaving of the spatial, mechanical and chemical aspects of intercellular signalling.