I think there is no such thing like "ideal design". I'm mostly playing on extreme and chaos, with very expensive research and full pirates (average distance), and monsters (from start). Additional everything starts with prewarp, mimimum number of planets and alien life. Yeah you can easily win with this game, but play styles are different, because you can choose races, governements, and you have different spawn in every new game. For example, I know that when I landed on the moon of a gas giant, I will not have problems with fuel. DW is hard and unforgiving. I don't have problems with Teekan, Haakonish - good economy. I experience troubles with empires that have a low birth rate, lack of bonuses to the economy - then I play on the default designs.
Yesterday I played and I did a cool projects for the size of the x160, the beginning of the game - civil stations and ships, but not military. You can check for your own, "cheap" and fast ships - https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BxfU61SfLpMjbUl0OUk0YnhVWmc - you don't need military before warp. Paste it in - C:\Users\***\Documents\My Games\Distant Worlds Universe\Settings.
But when I made designs for the size of the x300, my economy went bankrupt.
x160 small freighter
x300 small freighter
< Message edited by Premislaus -- 6/1/2016 2:40:00 AM >