Cold-formed steel (CFS) elements are increasingly used as load-bearing members in construction, including in seismic regions. More conventional hot-rolled steel and concrete building structures are typically allowed by the design standards to exceed their elastic limits in severe earthquakes, rendering parameters indicating ductility and energy dissipation of primordial importance. However, insufficient research has yet been conducted on the energy dissipation of CFS structures. In the majority of previous optimization research on CFS sections the ultimate capacity, as typically controlled by local, distortional and/or global buckling modes, is considered to be the sole optimization criterion. This paper aims to improve the seismic performance of CFS elements by optimising their geometric and material highly non-linear post-buckling behaviour to achieve maximum energy dissipation. A novel shape optimisation framework is presented using the Particle Swarm Optimisation (PSO) algorithm, linked to GMNIA ABAQUS finite element analyses. The relative dimensions of the cross-section, the location and number of intermediate stiffeners and the inclination of the lip stiffeners are considered to be the main design variables. All plate slenderness limit values and limits on the relative dimensions of the cross-sectional components as defined by Eurocode 3, as well as a number of practical manufacturing and construction limitations, are taken into account as constraints in the optimisation problem. It is demonstrated that a substantial improvement in energy dissipation capacity and ductility can be achieved through the proposed optimization framework. Optimized cross-sectional shapes are presented which dissipate up to 60% more energy through plastic deformations than a comparable commercially available lipped channel.