A multi-dimensional fractionation and characterization scheme was developed for fast acquisition of the relevant molecular properties for protein separation from crude biological feedstocks by ion-exchange chromatography (IEX), hydrophobic interaction chromatography (HIC), and size-exclusion chromatography. In this approach, the linear IEX isotherm parameters were estimated from multiple linear salt-gradient IEX data, while the nonlinear IEX parameters as well as the HIC isotherm parameters were obtained by the inverse method under column overloading conditions. Collected chromatographic fractions were analyzed by gel electrophoresis for estimation of molecular mass, followed by mass spectrometry for protein identification. The usefulness of the generated molecular properties data for rational decision-making during downstream process development was equally demonstrated. Monoclonal antibody purification from crude hybridoma cell culture supernatant was used as case study. The obtained chromatographic parameters only apply to the employed stationary phases and operating conditions, hence prior high throughput screening of different chromatographic resins and mobile phase conditions is still a prerequisite. Nevertheless, it provides a quick, knowledge-based approach for rationally synthesizing purification cascades prior to more detailed process optimization and evaluation. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2012; 109: 3070–3083. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.