Ocean waves have the potential to provide clean energy to large swaths of society. Despite their promise, wave energy converters (WECs) are prohibitively expensive, partly due to the lack of design convergence in the WEC industry. A system-level optimization facilitates cost reduction, systematic evaluation of various architectures, and ultimately design convergence. This paper outlines an optimization framework for wave energy at the industry level, starting with the selection of a suite of metrics that capture the value proposition of wave energy more fully than traditional metrics. This includes metrics that encompass environmental sustainability and economic value in addition to economic cost. Two processes for metric weighting are proposed: a heuristic process for emerging off-grid markets and a capacity expansion model for the grid market. As a demonstration of the weighting process, results from three existing studies are synthesized into weights for the levelized cost of energy, capacity factor, and standard deviation of capacity factor. Finally, the optimization design variables, parameters, objectives, and constraints are formulated, and methods to handle the many categorical or integer design variables and parameters are discussed. The process articulated here can also be applied to other emerging energy technologies, ultimately advancing decarbonization in the energy sector.