The present invention provides a computer-aided design system and method for designing an application specific integrated circuit which enables a user to define functional architecture independent specifications for the integrated circuit and which translates the functional architecture independent specifications into the detailed information needed for directly producing the integrated circuit. The functional architecture independent specifications of the desired integrated circuit can be defined at the functional architecture independent level in a flowchart format. From the flowchart, the system and method uses artificial intelligence and expert systems technology to generate a system controller, to select the necessary integrated circuit hardware cells needed to achieve the functional specifications, and to generate data and control paths for operation of the integrated circuit. This list of hardware cells and their interconnection requirements is set forth in a netlist. From the netlist it is possible using known manual techniques or existing VLSI CAD layout systems to generate the detailed chip level topological information (mask data) required to produce the particular application specific integrated circuit.