The static and dynamic optimal design of structural components fabricated with advanced composite materials are studied by combining the finite element method and optimization techniques. Different element types, loads, component structures and objective functions are investigated. Beams and torsion members are analyzed using the ANSYS finite element program and are optimized via an interface to an optimization software package. The particular element types used to model the composite components include beam elements with equivalent overall material properties and layered shell elements. The optimization variables include member cross sectional dimensions and composite lamina thicknesses and fiber orientations. The optimal results show significant improvement in deflection amplitude levels and dynamic settling times relative to conventional metals and nonoptimized composite materials.