A methodology has been derived allowing a fast preliminary assessment of the design of centrifugal compressors specified for high specific swallowing capacity. The method is based on one-dimensional (1D) design point values using classical turbomachinery analysis to determine the inlet geometry for the maximum mass flow function. The key results are then expressed in a series of diagrams which draw out the nature of the conflicting boundary conditions of the design. In particular, it is shown how the inlet casing relative Mach number causes the design flow coefficient to decrease with the total pressure ratio and determines the inlet eye diameter. Physically based boundaries of operation are added to the diagrams giving guidelines for the proper choice of specification values to the designer. In addition, links are given to some well-known impeller efficiency correlations, so that a preliminary estimate of the performance can be made. Comparisons are made with a range of compressor data which supports the approach. The derived methodology allows any given specifications to be checked rapidly for feasibility and development risk or can be used to define a challenging specification for the design of a new product.