A new solution methodology for optimal spot-weld pattern design is presented. The objective of the optimization is to minimize the total number of welds in a structure while maintaining structural properties above a required level. Two approaches were developed, based on the representation of welds in a finite element model. In the approach ‘without ranking’ welds are represented in a traditional way, as rigid connections. In ‘with ranking’ approach welds are treated as elastic elements subjected to stresses and deformations under given loading conditions. The information on weld stress is utilized in the solution process to reduce the number of design variables and improve the quality of the solution. The applicability of the method to large automotive structures was demonstrated, as well as the capacity for optimization with respect to multiple load sets.