Abstract The optimization of mechanisms is usually done in the field of mechanism itself. As a result the structural safety of the mechanism is neglected. To ensure the safety and improve the dynamic characteristics of mechanisms, a multidisciplinary design optimization procedure is proposed in this paper to synthesize optimum mechanisms. Two disciplines are involved in the multidisciplinary design optimization. They are the mechanism and the structure. The multi-level decomposition approach is chosen to generate optimum mechanisms. The optimized mechanisms not only satisfy mechanism and structural constraints but also have optimum objective function values in the two disciplines. In order to solve general mechanism design problems two widely used commercial softwares MSC/NASTRAN and MSC/ADAMS are integrated in the procedure to do the structural and the mechanism analysis, respectively. When the structural optimization is performed, a compromised approach is introduced to treat multiple configurations of mechanisms during operation. Two mechanism design problems are given to test the proposed method.