The 'Standard European Vector Architecture' database (SEVA-DB, http://seva.cnb.csic.es) was conceived as a user-friendly, web-based resource and a material clone repository to assist in the choice of optimal plasmid vectors for de-constructing and re-constructing complex prokaryotic phenotypes. The SEVA-DB adopts simple design concepts that facilitate the swapping of functional modules and the extension of genome engineering options to microorganisms beyond typical laboratory strains. Under the SEVA standard, every DNA portion of the plasmid vectors is minimized, edited for flaws in their sequence and/or functionality, and endowed with physical connectivity through three inter-segment insulators that are flanked by fixed, rare restriction sites. Such a scaffold enables the exchangeability of multiple origins of replication and diverse antibiotic selection markers to shape a frame for their further combination with a large variety of cargo modules that can be used for varied end-applications. The core collection of constructs that are available at the SEVA-DB has been produced as a starting point for the further expansion of the formatted vector platform. We argue that adoption of the SEVA format can become a shortcut to fill the phenomenal gap between the existing power of DNA synthesis and the actual engineering of predictable and efficacious bacteria. © The Author(s) 2012.