RAL Space is enhancing its program to lead the development of European capabilities in space-based visible-light coronal and heliospheric imaging instrumentation in the light of emerging opportunities such as the European Space Agency’s Space Situational Awareness program and recent S2 small-mission call. Visible-light coronal and heliospheric imaging of solar wind phenomena, such as coronal mass ejections and interaction regions, is of critical importance to space weather studies, both operationally and in terms of enabling the underpinning science. This work draws on heritage from scientific instruments such as LASCO (Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph) on the SOHO spacecraft, SMEI (Solar Mass Ejection Imager) on the Coriolis spacecraft and the HI (Heliospheric Imager) instruments on STEREO. Such visible-light observation of solar wind structures relies on the detection of sunlight that has been Thomson-scattered by electrons (the so-called K-corona). The Thomson-scattered signal must be extracted from other signals that can be many orders of magnitude greater (such as that from the F-corona and the solar disc itself) and this places stringent constraints on stray-light rejection, as well as pointing stability and accuracy. We discuss the determination of instrument requirements, key design trade-offs and the evolution of base-line designs for the coronal and heliospheric regimes. We explain how the next generation of instruments will build on this heritage while also, in some cases, meeting the challenges on resources imposed on operational space weather imagers. In particular, we discuss the optical engineering challenges involved in the design of these instruments.