The three different approaches (reformulations) of evolution strategies (ESs) have been proposed in the literature as extensions of the technique for solving discrete problems. This study implements an extensive research on application, evaluation and comparison of them in discrete optimum design of steel frames. A unified formulation is first developed to explain these approaches, so that differences and similarities between their inherent search mechanisms can clearly be identified. Two examples from practical design of steel frames are studied next to measure their performances in locating the optimum. Extensive numerical experimentations are performed in both examples to facilitate a statistical analysis of their convergence characteristics. The results obtained are presented in the histograms demonstrating the distribution of the best designs located by each approach. In addition, an average improvement of the best design during the course of evolution is plotted in each case to compare their relative convergence rates.