The recalcitrance of pathogens to traditional antibiotics has made treating and eradicating bacterial infections more difficult. In this regard, developing new antimicrobial agents to combat antibiotic-resistant strains has become a top priority. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), a ubiquitous class of naturally occurring compounds with broad-spectrum antipathogenic activity, hold significant promise as an effective solution to the current antimicrobial resistance (AMR) crisis. Several AMPs have been identified and evaluated for their therapeutic application, with many already in the drug development pipeline. Their distinct properties, such as high target specificity, potency, and ability to bypass microbial resistance mechanisms, make AMPs a promising alternative to traditional antibiotics. Nonetheless, several challenges, such as high toxicity, lability to proteolytic degradation, low stability, poor pharmacokinetics, and high production costs, continue to hamper their clinical applicability. Therefore, recent research has focused on optimizing the properties of AMPs to improve their performance. By understanding the physicochemical properties of AMPs that correspond to their activity, such as amphipathicity, hydrophobicity, structural conformation, amino acid distribution, and composition, researchers can design AMPs with desired and improved performance. In this review, we highlight some of the key strategies used to optimize the performance of AMPs, including rational design and de novo synthesis. We also discuss the growing role of predictive computational tools, utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning, in the design and synthesis of highly efficacious lead drug candidates.