Layered ceramics are foreseen as possible substitutes for monolithic ceramics due to their attractive mechanical properties in terms of strength reliability and toughness. The different loading conditions to which ceramic materials may be subjected in service encourage the design of tailored layered structures as function of their application. The use of residual stresses generated during cooling due to the different thermal strain of adjacent layers has been the keystone for the improvement of the fracture response of many layered ceramic systems, e.g. alumina-zirconia, alumina-mullite, silicon nitride-titanium nitride, etc. In this work, the fracture features of layered ceramics are addressed analysing two multilayered structures, based on the alumina-zirconia system, designed with tailored compressive residual stresses either in the external or internal layers. Contact strength and indentation strength tests have been performed to investigate the response of both designs to crack propagation. The experimental findings show a different response in terms of strength and crack growth resistance of both designs. While layered structures with compressive stresses at the surface provide a better response against contact damage compared to monoliths, a flaw tolerant design in terms of strength and an improved toughness through energy release mechanisms is achieved with internal compressive stresses. The use of layered architectures for automotive or biomedical applications as substitutes for alumina-based ceramics should be regarded in the near future, where reliable ceramic designs are needed.