In this paper symmetry and asymmetry of opti mal solutions insymmetric structural optimization problems is investigated, based on the choice of variables. A group theory approach is used to define the symmetry of the struc tural problems in a general way. This approach allows the set of symmetric structures to be described and related to the entire search space of the problem. A relationship between the design variables and the likelihood of finding symmetric or asymmetric solutions to problems is established. It is shown that an optimal symmetric solution (if any) does not necessarily exist in the case of discrete variable problems, regardless of the size of the discrete, countable set from which variables can be chosen. Finally a number of examples illustrate these principles on simple truss structures with discrete topology and sizing variables.