Viruses can be engineered to efficiently deliver exogenous genes, but their natural gene delivery properties often fail to meet human therapeutic needs. Therefore, engineering viral vectors with new properties, including enhanced targeting abilities and resistance to immune responses, is a growing area of research. This review discusses protein engineering approaches to generate viral vectors with novel gene delivery capabilities. Rational design of viral vectors has yielded successful advances in vitro, and to an extent in vivo. However, there is often insufficient knowledge of viral structure-function relationships to reengineer existing functions or create new capabilities, such as virus-cell interactions, whose molecular basis is distributed throughout the primary sequence of the viral proteins. Therefore, high-throughput library and directed evolution methods offer alternative approaches to engineer viral vectors with desired properties. Parallel and integrated efforts in rational and library-based design promise to aid the translation of engineered viral vectors toward the clinic.