Charcon 2011 Collection
The middle of May doesn't seem to be the logical moment to launch a new brochure, but that's what Charcon have chosen to do with their revamped Commercial Landscaping Portfolio. This is all part of the brand strengthening exercise being undertaken by the British faces of Aggregate Industries, which started with the vastly improved Bradstone brochure launched back in the ice-bound days of January.
Charcon have traditionally been the commercial face of AI, preferring to leave the cutesy garden paving to Bradstone and StoneFlair while they focus on the beefy commercial and civic projects, and the new publication appears to be a very definite reinforcement of that role.
Eighty four A4 pages in full-colour, spine-bound and with a semi-stiff covering which features a rather dark and sombre view of sett paving in Blackpool. Aesthetically, it's a clever photie, but as it is intended to show off a six-colour blend of granite setts, using a dusk setting with bluey-purple spot lighting doesn't really do justice to the product.
The big news from Charcon is that they have massively expanded their range of natural stone. That doesn't mean they've added a handful of new setts and a couple of flags, but that they have really jumped into the market with both feet firmly ensconced within big, hob-nailed boots.
The natural stone range now includes several types of genuine English Yorkstone, along with your actual Welsh slate, Irish granite and Scottish Caithness stones, as well as Portuguese granites, Italian Porphyry, plus Chinese sandstones and granites in a wide variety number of colours and textures.
Steve Hook, Commercial Manager for Charcon Natural Stone, reckons the range is now a whopping 40% bigger than previously, and he's obviously proud of the pre-eminence given to stone in the new brochure, evidenced by the enthusiasm with which he shows off the stunning fold-out double page swatches used to give readers a better understanding of the colour and patterning of several 'star turns' from their natural stone collection.
"Because we have access to the raw materials from our own quarry network we are now able to offer a greater choice of natural stone product, including a high quality, durable UK Yorkstone with 20 years guaranteed availability - something that is very important to specifiers and clients in the UK."
Steve reassures me that they will not be relying solely on the new brochure, but will still be providing samples of actual stone, along with case studies and a dedicated design service, using their many years of expertise to ensure product specification is tailored to suit the specific aesthetic, textural and service requirements of any architectural or landscape project.
For me, as an ardent cheerleader for British and Irish stone, it is a real joy to see native stone being promoted as fully as this. We all appreciate that imported stone has, and will continue to have, a pivotal role in the hard-landscaping market. However, the recognition that not only are these islands build upon world-class stone, but our towns and cities are keen to celebrate our heritage and natural wealth by using it whenever possible, is an affirmation that the disheartening trend towards identikit towns may be on the wane.
And where our native geology can't provide the stone we need, Charcon have turned to sources renowned for quality: Portugal for the lovely 'big crystal' granites, Italy for the stunning deep red Porphyry, and India for hard, red sandstone.
This is a comprehensive collection and gives a convincing indication of the intent which Charcon are applying to their role as a supplier of natural stone. However, despite the passion which both Steve and I share for natural stone, the 2011 collection does actually include the high-quality pressed concrete products for which Charcon earned its reputation.
Flags, blocks and kerbs are all contained within the collection, and while there is nothing new, other than the addition of the ultra-light Durakerb, as revealed back in December, the brochure provides a basic but informative single-page introduction to each product line, with an illustrative photie, small swatches and a size/weight table.
Steve tells me that it is hoped future editions will be able to give flags, blocks and kerbs the same sort of double-page fold-out features that have been used for the natural stone products. Small swatches have limited usefulness and this is painfully obvious for those products that have subtle tonal variation. Now that the natural stone section has shown what can be done with larger swatches, there is a real need to extend the courtesy to the rest of the range.
Similarly, the limited coverage given to surface water systems, suds and segmental retainer walls needs to be expanded. I'm not sure we want to return to the days of bloated ring-binder tomes that needed two men to lift down from a shelf, but, for example, the current exponential increase in the use of segmental walling ought to warrant more than 3 pages.
It's a period of uncertainty for brochures of all kinds, as more and more of us are quite happy to turn to the interweb for our information, and consequently the role of expensive printed documentation, and its justification, is somewhat nebulous. The residential market, focusing on patios, gardens and driveways, relies on brochures to attract the casual buyer and DIYer, but for commercial applications, we increasingly expect our designers, contractors and architects to use web-based resources. Even so, there is something wonderfully reassuring about having a manageable ink-and-paper brochure that can hover around the desk and office to provide spur-of-the-moment inspiration, quick and easy fact checking, and a tangible asset to show to clients and colleagues alike.
If you're involved in specifying, designing, or constructing commercial landscapes, or if you're just an admirer of good stone, the Charcon Collection brochure ought to be on your desk. You can order your own copy by calling 01335 372222, emailing Charcon or visit the website .