Color Pencils and Fonts

Overview  

Coloured writing utensils (pens and pencils) and computer fonts are often used to draw a users attention to certain information within a page. Colour pencils and fonts have been heavily researched in their use in colour coding (for more study tools, please refer to our <Study Tools> section). The available literature does not demonstrate any evidence for improved performance due to writing entirely in colour, instead the research focuses on how colour can be used to highlight or coordinate information within a text passage. Colour coding as a study strategy is fairly old, with much of the research on its efficacy occuring in the 1970-80s, however, this investigation continues into modern discourse. Study notes with color-coded information and visualizations have been shown to slightly increase performance on a knowledge-based test compared to monochromatic information (Keller, Gerjets, Scheiter & Garsoffky, 2006). A neurocognitive study on the use of color coding also found increased memory of information and transfer performance when using colour coded information compared to when using monochromatic information. The authors used eye tracking software to show that this increase in performance was due to efficiency of locating corresponding information between illustrations and text and that color coding also attracted the attention of learners to perceptually salient information (Ozcelik, Karakus, Kursun, & Cagiltay, 2009). This learning boost has been extended into adults as well; parents used information charts to answer BMI based questions about their children. Oettinger and colleagues (2009) found when given colour coded versions of these charts, the number of correct answers increased, and that this increase was even more profound for lower numeracy parents (Oettinger, 2009).

 

Research Rating: The available research on coloured fonts focuses on the strategy of colour coding as a general study tool; this tool has not been shown to be effective in circumventing weaknesses in populations with disabilities.

 

Advantages:

  • Affordable and readily available

  • When used to colour code, can help users retain information (Keller et al., 2006)

 

Disadvantages:

  • Require the use of a study strategy, not shown to be inherently useful

 

To Consider

  • Coloured fonts themselves do not increase performance, however the use of strategies that involve coloured fonts have been shown to provide small boosts in performance and retention (Keller et al., 2006).

Exact prices change frequently, which is why only approximate ranges are listed. 

$ - Under $5

$$ - Between $6 and $50

$$$ - Between $51 and $250

$$$$ - Over $250

References

 

Keller, T., Gerjets, P., Scheiter, K., & Garsoffky, B. (2006). Information visualizations for knowledge acquisition: The impact of dimensionality and color coding. Computers in Human Behavior, 22(1), 43-65.

 

Oettinger, M. D., Finkle, J. P., Esserman, D., Whitehead, L., Spain, T. K., Pattishall, S. R., ... & Perrin, E. M. (2009). Color-coding improves parental understanding of body mass index charting. Academic pediatrics, 9(5), 330-338.

 

Ozcelik, E., Karakus, T., Kursun, E., & Cagiltay, K. (2009). An eye-tracking study of how color coding affects multimedia learning. Computers & Education, 53(2), 445-453.



 

Written by Harrison McNaughtan, Last Revision May 2018

Academic Intervention Lab

Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Toronto, ON M5S 1V6, Canada
     Email: academicinterventionlab@utoronto.ca

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