Although the concept of selective delivery has been postulated over 100 years ago, no targeted nanomedicine has been clinically approved so far. Nanoparticles modified with targeting ligands to promote the selective delivery of therapeutics towards a specific cell population have been extensively reported. However, the rational design of selective particles is still challenging. One of the main reasons for this is the lack of quantitative theoretical and experimental understanding of the interactions involved in cell targeting. In this review, we discuss new theoretical models and experimental methods that provide a quantitative view of targeting. We show the new advancements in multivalency theory enabling the rational design of super-selective nanoparticles. Furthermore, we present the innovative approaches to obtain key targeting parameters at the single-cell and single molecule level and their role in the design of targeting nanoparticles. We believe that the combination of new theoretical multivalent design and experimental methods to quantify receptors and ligands aids in the rational design and clinical translation of targeted nanomedicines.