Fibre-reinforced laminate composites have attractively high stiffnesses and strengths and low densities. However, designing with laminate composites is more difficult than designing with metals because (a) it involves the design of the material itself, and its manufacturing route, at the same time, (b) laminates are highly anisotropic, and (c) they have complex failure modes. The failure modes and anisotropy combine to make design details unintuitively important and small detailed-design oversights have been responsible for most failures in composite structures. Design is ‘the process of converting an idea into information from which a product can be made’. Thus the central role of information processing in any design activity implies that software should be able to help. Here we show three different ways in which laminate stacking sequences can be designed.