This paper considers the computation of flow sensitivities that arise in the context of design optimization. The scheme is based on the solution of a continuous adjoint problem, for which two complementary, although analytically equivalent, approaches have been routinely used for some time now, yielding expressions for the sensitivities that contain, respectively, boundary and domain integrals. These concepts are clarified in a unified framework and their equivalence at the continuous level is demonstrated through appropriate algebraic manipulations. Equivalence at the discrete level is assessed through numerical testing for various aerodynamic shape-optimization problems. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.