The Hat District,


Transforming Luton
through Placemaking.

Luton was once the largest hat manufacturing town in the world, but over the 21st century it began to lose its identity. Recognised more for its London-linked airport, the town started to look forgotten. But what Luton did have was a thriving mix of cultures, a great arts centre, the University of Bedfordshire campus and several small but growing creative businesses.

To transform a key area of the Town that connects the train station to the city centre, required a brave placemaking strategy. The brainchild of The Culture Trust (formerly Luton Culture) and Chief Executive, Marie Kirbyshaw, Hat District is a placemaking concept with bold ambitions to transform the town for generations to come.

Many of the larger old buildings around Luton had previously been hat manufacturers, beautiful old Victorian buildings full of great architectural details. Over the years, left unlet, many began to fall into disrepair. The Culture Trust’s ambition has been to reinvigorate these once bustling buildings into creative enterprise hubs to nurture local talent and promote their growth into dynamic businesses.

Without a brand story or identity, the Hat District was little more than a white paper outlining the concept with big ambitions. The core aim was to draw creative agencies away from setting up their base in London and considering Luton as a place to grow and expand, benefiting both them and the community at large.


We interviewed numerous London creative agencies, and then spent days in Luton before presenting our scoping document with a strategy to deliver Hat District. Our objectives were to create a sense of arrival, improve navigation between the district, and delight and surprise locals through changes to the offering of food and retail to match the values of the Hat District.

We also identified that Luton Culture was in a bit of an identity crisis but had the potential to become an influential and recognisable brand. Trusted and recognisable, in a similar way to the National Trust and helps to embody and unite the teams behind everything the Culture Trust was about to do. As a core representative of the brand we developed the branding for both in parallel.


Drawing from the hat factory history, we used patterns found in weaves, straw and machinery to carry through as graphic devices. Our approach to branding the individual buildings was simple, systematic and follows the chronological order in which each hat factory was originally built. For our earliest dated building, Hat Works, we started with an outlined logo which gradually builds up with graphic lines to create unique logos and patterns for each subsequent building.

At the core of our identity is the idea of various elements coming together to create a finished piece. Our individual building logos are layered to build our Hat District logo, and represent the journey through the Hat District from ‘start up’ to established business.



The Culture Trust


The Culture Trust


Creative Direction - Dan Moscrop
Designer - Sonia Torosyan-Compton
Project Manager - Alice Chilton