© 2019 authors. Published by the American Physical Society. A study of the optimization of iron dominated dipole magnets with pole face widths comparable or less than the gap size, i.e., low aspect ratio (AR), is conducted using both theoretical and computational approaches. This regime of magnet design is particularly relevant in the context of laser plasma accelerators (LPA) due to unique beam parameters and geometric constraints, namely large energy spreads and the requirement for large apertures to accommodate drive laser passage. The breakdown of commonly employed approximations and rules of thumb in typical AR1 magnet design is examined. A library of generalized, optimized pole face geometries is provided to expedite optimization of future magnets. Finally, this methodology is used to design an electromagnetic chicane which has been fabricated, validated, and is currently in use in an x-ray free electron laser driven LPA experiment at LBNL.