Master Plan Design Code

Design guidelines for a new global gateway.

Lead Visual Designer; Layout Design, Art Direction, Translation Coordination
Open book with an image of the Senmaida Rice Terraces on the left page, and a conceptual plan digram with text on the right.
Pickard Chilton Architects was selected to lead the concept design for a large master plan surrounding a major railway station in Tokyo, Japan. In addition to the architectural design, our team was also responsible for developing the Master Plan Design Code, a bilingual design guideline document to inform the master plan's overall design. The client would provide this document to all architects working on buildings within the master plan to ensure a cohesive look and experience.

A Visual Language

Working with the architectural team, I developed a simple color and typographic palette for the initial competition proposal and then carried it to the Design Code. This consistent palette ensured visual connectivity between all diagrams and presentation materials throughout the project.
Three woodblock prints with circle color swatches below. The top three color swatches represent colors pulled directly from the prints.


The inspiration for the base color palette came from historical woodblock prints of the site. Building on this neutral base, I created an expanded secondary palette to be used in diagrams throughout the document.
Two columns of text showing the English and Japanese type styles used throughout the document.


I selected Okomito and Kozuka Gothic as the primary typefaces for the English and Japanese translations as they had a similar structure and were legible in longer bodies of text.

Flexible Layouts

Before laying out any content for the Design Code, the entire team worked together to create a rough storyboard of the document. Given the extensive amount of content, it was clear that the format needed to be flexible enough to accommodate a range of layouts. I began with a simple 8-column grid across a full spread. Using this grid as our foundation, the team started to pull together placeholder imagery to create our first storyboard of the Design Code.
Diagram of document spread with red lines showing column guides and blue boxes showing a variety of layouts within the guides.
Grid of document spreads with various layouts and placeholder imagery.

Refining the Style

Now that we had a visual framework to build out the Design Code, the architectural team began to develop the content. At the same time, I refined the layout and visual styles of the document. Throughout the process, the team collaborated closely with the client and a local architectural firm to ensure that the content provided adequate design guidance and was culturally appropriate. The final document was structured into three major sections to guide three architectural scales: the master plan scale, the individual building scale, and the human scale. Each section had a unique layout and diagrammatic styles to fit the content's needs while still feeling cohesive as a single document.


The opening section introduced the project, including the site history & context, project goals, and a brief introduction to the following chapters and the content covered in each.
Open book showing a spread introducing each of the chapters. The left page shows an overall axonometric diagram of the master plan, and the right page shows a building axonometric with detail cutaway axonometric diagrams.
Two open books laid next to each other. The first shows a spread with a red background with the chapter contents. The second shows a layout from the chapter with a red rectangle in the upper right corner of the page.


As each of the sections was incredibly information-dense and set up in an outline format, a simplified "subway map" was developed for each design guideline section to help the reader navigate the material at the beginning of each chapter.

Each section had a unique color used on the opening spread and tabs on all pages. This color-coding allowed the user to quickly recognize the content associated with each chapter while flipping through the Design Code.

Diagrammatic Styles

As there were many conceptual ideas to represent abstractly, I developed a basic linework diagram style used throughout the Design Code at various scales. These simple diagrammatic styles made for a flexible tool to communicate multiple design ideas, ranging from pedestrian flow to architectural lighting. This basic style also made it possible for different designers to create diagrams that would be visually consistent.
Aerial axonometric diagram showing all 6 buildings within the master plan.
Aerial axonometric diagram showing of a single building from the master plan.
Aerial axonometric diagram showing a detail cutaway section of one piece of the pedestrian pathway.
Open book showing a layout using the master plan axomometric to highlight lighting strategies for the master plan. The diagram uses white lines on a deep blue background.

The Result

The final Design Code was a 190-page document covering topics ranging from signage to helipad locations. It will be used by all architectural teams developing projects within the master plan.
Grid of layouts from the Design Code showing the range of layout styles.

Project Team

Visual Design
Darin B, Rachel H, Alex O
Architectural Design
William C, Owen H, Rachel H, Alex O