Specific arrestin conformations are coupled to distinct downstream effectors, which underlie the functions of many G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). Here, using unnatural amino acid incorporation and fluorine-19 nuclear magnetic resonance ((19)F-NMR) spectroscopy, we demonstrate that distinct receptor phospho-barcodes are translated to specific β-arrestin-1 conformations and direct selective signalling. With its phosphate-binding concave surface, β-arrestin-1 'reads' the message in the receptor phospho-C-tails and distinct phospho-interaction patterns are revealed by (19)F-NMR. Whereas all functional phosphopeptides interact with a common phosphate binding site and induce the movements of finger and middle loops, different phospho-interaction patterns induce distinct structural states of β-arrestin-1 that are coupled to distinct arrestin functions. Only clathrin recognizes and stabilizes GRK2-specific β-arrestin-1 conformations. The identified receptor-phospho-selective mechanism for arrestin conformation and the spacing of the multiple phosphate-binding sites in the arrestin enable arrestin to recognize plethora phosphorylation states of numerous GPCRs, contributing to the functional diversity of receptors.