Eighteen people participated in an experiment in which they were asked to search for targets on control room like displays which had been produced using three different coding methods. The monochrome coding method displayed the information in black and white only, the maximally discriminable method contained colours chosen for their high perceptual discriminability, the visual layers method contained colours developed from psychological and cartographic principles which grouped information into a perceptual hierarchy. The visual layers method produced significantly faster search times than the other two coding methods which did not differ significantly from each other. Search time also differed significantly for presentation order and for the method × order interaction. There was no significant difference between the methods in the number of errors made. Participants clearly preferred the visual layers coding method. Proposals are made for the design of experiments to further test and develop the visual layers colour coding methodology.