Finite element analysis (FEA) can be used to design structures. Methods for linear and nonlinear FEA are applied to all kinds of geometries. A simplified geometry structure, or basic element type, sometimes does take into account all the necessary effects for the design purposes. In other analyses more advanced modelling is absolutely necessary. Also dependent on the design stage (preliminary or more definite) the type of FEA can vary. As the software programs get more advanced and computer capacity for analysis grows there is a (slow) tendency to calculate more advanced models during design processes. The goal of the design calculation could be changed to use less time to get the most out of the design with respect to safety and risk assessment, cost optimization, or the easiest building execution. This paper will give an overview on how to choose the most appropriate FEA. It describes the strengths and shortcomings for the different types of FEA, from theoretical point of view as well as practical point of view. It will be shown that there is not one optimal approach, but with a few basic assumptions in many cases the optimum design modelling approach can be selected. At the end of this publication a comparison between design approach choices will be made for some common type of structures.