An analysis methodology and corresponding analytical tools for rapid top-down design of multi-spectral imaging systems is presented. Beginning with top- level customer-dictated system performance requirements and constraints, the critical system and component parameters in the electro-optical image chain are derived, performance analyzed, and iterated until a preliminary design that meets customer requirements is generated. System parameters and components composing the image chain for staring, scanning, pushbroom, and time-delay and integrate systems include: aperture, focal length, field of view, cold shield requirements, image plane dimensions, pixel dimensions, pixel pitch and fill factor, detection quantum efficiency, optical filter requirements, image plane dimensions, pixel dimensions, pixel pitch and fill factor, detection quantum efficiency, optical filter requirements, and temporal sampling parameters. The performance analysis is accomplished by calculating the imaging system's optical response (to a scene radiance), total noise, and imaging resolution. The noise components include photon noise due to signal, scene and atmospheric background, cold shield, out-of-band optical filter leakage and electronic noise. System resolution is simulated through cascaded optical transfer functions (OTF's) and includes effects due to atmosphere, optics, image sampling, and system motion.