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In this paper we describe the Nimrod/O design optimization tool, and its application in computational fluid dynamics. Nimrod/O facilitates the use of an arbitrary computational model to drive an automatic optimization process. This means that the user can parameterise an arbitrary problem, and then ask the tool to compute the parameter values that minimize or maximise a design objective function. The paper describes the Nimrod/O system, and then discusses a case study in the evaluation of an aerofoil problem. The problem involves computing the shape and angle of attack of the aerofoil that maximises the lift to drag ratio. The results show that our general approach is extremely flexible and delivers better results than a program that was developed specifically for the problem. Moreover, it only took us a few hours to set up the tool for the new problem and required no software development.