Evolutionary structural optimization is applied to determine the optimum shape of steel gusset plates subjected to axial forces. A number of different gusset plates used in various types of connections is considered for this purpose. The evolutionary structural optimization approach is employed to find the optimum shapes of a gusset plate used in these connections. The first example considers a gusset plate having two holes which are utilized in the connection of double angle carrying a tensile force. Within this example the effect of certain parameters in the evolutionary structural optimization process such as material removal ratio, mesh size and modeling of holes on the final shape is investigated. The gusset plates having three, four and five holes are also designed for optimal shape. Furthermore design examples include two rows of multiple holes as well as staggered holes and connections with multiple members. The final shapes obtained in the single member bolted connections are generally similar to those used in practice. However, they are lighter. Those shapes obtained for the multiple member connections and welded double angle connections are unpredictable. Although the shapes obtained in all the examples are lighter than the ones used in practice, they might be more expensive to produce. It is shown that the evolutionary structural optimization method has a potential in determining the optimum shape of gusset plates. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.