Catalog design is the process of forming functional systems by assembling selected components from manufacturers’ catalogs. Generally, the engineer performs this design process in two steps: the selection of a basic system configuration, and the subsequent selection of specific components for that configuration. A genetic algorithm approach to catalog design will allow the integration of these two steps. This paper focuses on the four components of a genetic algorithm that must be developed for application to the catalog design problem. These operators include: a genetic representation of the design that includes its component parts and their connectivity, an initialization process for generating an initial set of designs, and a method for the exchange of the designs’ genetic information.