Molecular imaging, the visualization, characterization and measurement of biological processes at the cellular, subcellular level, or even molecular level in living subjects, has rapidly gained importance in the dawning era of personalized medicine. Molecular imaging takes advantage of the traditional diagnostic imaging techniques and introduces molecular imaging probes to determine the expression of indicative molecular markers at different stages of diseases and disorders. As a key component of molecular imaging, molecular imaging probe must be able to specifically reach the target of interest in vivo while retaining long enough to be detected. A desirable molecular imaging probe with clinical translation potential is expected to have unique characteristics. Therefore, design and development of molecular imaging probe is frequently a challenging endeavor for medicinal chemists. This review summarizes the general principles of molecular imaging probe design and some fundamental strategies of molecular imaging probe development with a number of illustrative examples.