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As integrated circuit (IC) complexities increase, many existing computer-aided design (CAD) methods must be replaced with an integrated design system to support very large scale integrated (VLSI) circuit and system design. The framework for a hierarchical CAD system is described. The system supports both functional and physical design from initial specification and system synthesis to simulation, mask layout, verification, and documentation. The system is being implemented in phases on a DECSystem 20 computer network and will support evolutionary changes as new technologies are developed and design strategies defined.