Integrated solar combined cycle (ISCC) is an operationally simple, clean electric power generation system that is economically more attractive vis-à-vis stand-alone concentrating solar power (CSP) technology. The ISCC can be designed to achieve two primary goals: (1) replace natural gas combustion with solar thermal power at the same output rating to reduce fuel consumption and stack emissions and/or (2) replace supplementary (duct) firing in the heat recovery steam generator (HRSG) with “solar firing” to boost power generation on hot days. Optimal ISCC design requires a seamless integration of the solar thermal and fossil-thermal technologies to maximize the solar contribution to the overall system performance at the lowest possible size and cost. The current paper uses the exergy concept of the second law of thermodynamics to distill the quite complex optimization problem to its bare essentials. The goal is to provide the practitioners with physics-based, user-friendly guidelines to understand the key drivers and the interaction among them. Ultimately, such understanding is expected to help direct studies involving heavy use of time consuming system models in a focused manner and evaluate the results critically to arrive at feasible ISCC designs.