Most agriculturally significant crop traits are quantitatively inherited which limits the ease and efficiency of trait dissection. Multi-parent populations overcome the limitations of traditional trait mapping and offer new potential to accurately define the genetic basis of complex crop traits. The increasing popularity and use of nested association mapping (NAM) and multi-parent advanced generation intercross (MAGIC) populations raises questions about the optimal design and allocation of resources in their creation. In this paper we review strategies for the creation of multi-parent populations and describe two complementary in silico studies addressing the design and construction of NAM and MAGIC populations. The first simulates the selection of diverse founder parents and the second the influence of multi-parent crossing schemes (and number of founders) on haplotype creation and diversity. We present and apply two open software resources to simulate alternate strategies for the development of multi-parent populations.