Classical approaches to layout design problem tend to maximise the efficiency of layout, measured by the handling cost related to the interdepartmental flow and to the distance among the departments. However, the actual problem involves several conflicting objectives hence requiring a multi-objective formulation. Multi-objective approaches, recently proposed, in most cases lead to the maximisation of a weighted sum of score functions. The poor practicability of such an approach is due to the difficulty of normalising these functions and of quantifying the weights. In this paper, this difficulty is overcome by approaching the problem in two subsequent steps: in the first step, the Pareto-optimal solutions are determined by employing a multi-objective constrained genetic algorithm and the subsequent selection of the optimal solution is carried out by means of the multi-criteria decision-making procedure Electre. This procedure allows the decision maker to express his preferences on the basis of the knowledge of candidate solution set. Quantitative (handling cost) and qualitative (adjacency and distance requests between departments) objectives are considered referring to a bay structure-based layout model, that allows to take into account also practical constraints such as the aspect ratio of departments. Results obtained confirm the effectiveness of the proposed procedure as a practicable support tool for layout designers. (C) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.