The Insulin Resistance Atherosclerosis Study (IRAS) is the first epidemiologic study designed to assess the relationships between insulin resistance, insulinemia, glycemia, other components of the insulin resistance syndrome, and prevalent cardiovascular disease (CVD) in a large multiethnic cohort. Over 1600 men and women were recruited from four geographic areas to represent a range of glucose tolerance (normal, impaired, and diabetic) and ethnicity (hispanic, non-Hispanic white, and African-American). Insulin resistance was assessed directly using the frequently sampled intravenous glucose tolerance test with minimal model analysis. Intimal-medial carotid artery wall thickness, an indicator of atherosclerosis, was measured using B-mode ultrasonography. Prevalent CVD was assessed by questionnaire and resting electrocardiography. This report describes the design of the study and provides the recruitment results. Forthcoming cross-sectional analyses will help to disentangle the association between insulin resistance and CVD, apart from the concomitant hyperinsulinemia and related CVD risk factors.