A design optimization methodology that couples optimization techniques to CFD analysis for design of airfoils is presented. This technique optimizes 2D airfoil sections of a blade by minimizing the deviation of the actual Mach number distribution on the blade surface from a smooth fit of the distribution. The airfoil is not reverse engineered by specification of a precise distribution of the desired Mach number plot, only general desired characteristics of the distribution are specified for the design. Since the Mach number distribution is very complex, and cannot be conveniently represented by a single polynomial, it is partitioned into segments, each of which is characterized by a different order polynomial. The sum of the deviation of all the segments is minimized during optimization. To make intelligent changes to the airfoil geometry, it needs to be associated with features observed in the Mach number distribution. Associating the geometry parameters with independent features of the distribution is a fairly complex task. Also, for different optimization techniques to work efficiently the airfoil geometry needs to be parameterized into independent parameters, with enough degrees of freedom for adequate geometry manipulation. A high-pressure, low reaction steam turbine blade section was optimized using this methodology. The Mach number distribution was partitioned into pressure and suction surfaces and the suction surface distribution was further subdivided into leading edge, mid section and trailing edge sections. Two different airfoil representation schemes were used for defining the design variables of the optimization problem. The optimization was performed by using a combination of heuristic search and numerical optimization. The optimization results for the two schemes are discussed in the paper. The results are also compared to a manual design improvement study conducted independently by an experienced airfoil designer. The turbine blade optimization system (TBOS) is developed using the described methodology of coupling knowledge engineering with multiple search techniques for blade shape optimization. TBOS removes a major bottleneck in the design cycle by performing multiple design optimizations in parallel, and improves design quality at the same time. TBOS not only improves the design but also the designers' quality of work by taking the mundane repetitive task of design iterations away and leaving them more time for innovative design.