how do you spec?

what specing format do you use initially and updating later on?

of course constant and consistent documentation is required.

my company (fashion, not sneaker) works with only one factory, whom requires all specing and spec updates in excel.
IMHO- excel is not the most efficient way to spec. there are many limitations and it’s incredibly time consuming.

at my previous job, we would write up a spec in word, pdf it and then any adjustments were documented solely via emails.

am i off base for feeling excel is a terrible instrument for spec-ing?
the only advantage i can see is that its charted and fairly consistent.

i’m curious to learn how other people are working.

I don’t much like using excel for speccing but I can see the value of it and I’ve worked at many, many companies that do like it and I’ve even set up Excel spec sheets for clients.

It just means that when they need to do new colours, or if they get a jpeg of a sketch from a designer, or if they get photos of samples from factories that need recolouring or altering, they can plonk your sketch or a photo on the sheet and write the spec themselves, no need for specific graphics software, the office pa or salesmen can do it themselves if needs be.

I actually find it very very quick to use.

Yes it’s very common for fashion companies, I’m in the UK where in fast fashion it is still very much ‘back of a cigarette packet,’ there just isn’t time for fancy renders, too much volume of work to go into sampling.

Perhaps your factory is using exact same format, which makes translating it (should they need to do so) relatively quick and simple?

I send my specs as PDFs. Illustrator colorup with callouts. I also send a blank or partially completed excel file that is formatted for easy use later as a CDB (cost breakdown). That way they can easily complete or update with all the parts, materials, prices, etc. At that point the original illustrator file is probably irrelevant as the pattern, colors and materials have changed through development, and the shoe and swatch card is the ultimate reference, but the spec/CBD sheet is the go to for a quick rundown of relevant information. It can also easily be used going forward for following seasons for new colorways or SMUs, though I still tend to do Illustrator colorups as is a handy visual reference.

Fancy renders are only for clients and marketing. Illustrator colorups (CADs as some old people call them) for the fty or review.


all of my specs are written up in excel. It’s not perfect, but there are functions that come in handy. I particularly like the find/replace function when I may need to tweak materials or colors. All spreadsheets are accompanied with an Illustrator PDF (colorup) and a jpg of the illustrator colorup is at the top of each spec sheet.

I’d like to be able to do it all in illustrator - one large layout - but at the factory end of things the spreadsheet is more useful.

The softlines side of my company also uses excel with accompanying PDF’s of any artwork/colorways/ect. Our designers work closely with Product development and merchandise departments (all use the document) so it is easy for them to collaborate on changes and updates.

And the suits cant figure out anything other than an excel sheet…

I render all my designs (shoes) in Illustrator. I put most shading and highlighting (for presentation purposes) on their own respective layers. I hide those layers when preparing the rendering as a spec sheet, and put all specs on a separate layer as well. I export them to JPEG and email to factory. I’ve found that 150 ppi JPEGs suffice for our sample rooms.

After first round of samples I usually make revisions in one of two ways: 1) Using the original Illustrator format, I highlight all revised specs in yellow, or 2) hand-write my revisions, using Photoshop and Wacom pen, on photos of the first-round sample. The method I use is determined by the extent and nature of the revisions and/or simply the mood I’m in.