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A direct comparison of two strategies for designing antimicrobial polymers is presented. Previously, we published several reports on the use of facially amphiphilic (FA) monomers which led to polynorbornenes with excellent antimicrobial activities and selectivities. Our polymers obtained by copolymerization of structurally similar segregated monomers, in which cationic and non-polar moieties reside on separate repeat units, led to polymers with less pronounced activities. A wide range of polymer amphiphilicities was surveyed by pairing a cationic oxanor-bornene with eleven different non-polar monomers and varying the comonomer feed ratios. Their properties were tested using antimicrobial assays and copolymers possessing intermediate hydrophobicities were the most active. Polymer-induced leakage of dye-filled liposomes and microscopy of polymer-treated bacteria support a membrane-based mode of action. From these results there appears to be profound differences in how a polymer made from FA monomers interacts with the phospholipid bilayer compared with copolymers from segregated monomers. We conclude that a well-defined spatial relationship of the whole polymer is crucial to obtain synthetic mimics of antimicrobial peptides (SMAMPs): charged and non-polar moieties need to be balanced locally, for example, at the monomer level, and not just globally. We advocate the use of FA monomers for better control of biological properties. It is expected that this principle will be usefully applied to other backbones such as the polyacrylates, polystyrenes, and non-natural polyamides.