Research on graphene and other two-dimensional atomic crystals is intense and is likely to remain one of the leading topics in condensed matter physics and materials science for many years. Looking beyond this field, isolated atomic planes can also be reassembled into designer heterostructures made layer by layer in a precisely chosen sequence. The first, already remarkably complex, such heterostructures (often referred to as 'van der Waals') have recently been fabricated and investigated, revealing unusual properties and new phenomena. Here we review this emerging research area and identify possible future directions. With steady improvement in fabrication techniques and using graphene's springboard, van der Waals heterostructures should develop into a large field of their own.