Picks and Pans: “Chicken People” – A Documentary that Follows Good Instructional Design Principles

Just a quick note to encourage all my fellow instructional designers, especially those of focused on engineering knowledge topics, to go our and watch Chicken People. It’s a documentary about the world of champion chicken breeding (yup, that IS a thing).

Top 4 reasons you should watch it, even though chicken breeding and instructional design theoretically have nothing to do with each other:

  1. We’ve all been asked to write content over something that seemed like nothing: “You want me to write about what now?”. This documentary proves that a good editor can pull together a brilliant, multi-dimensional narrative if you just look in the right places. It also proves that the art and practice of storytelling is key to creating compelling content. We, as an industry, really need to focus on the art of storytelling more.
  2. The documentary does a beautiful job mixing stills with video and voice over narration. If you’re looking to be inspired for how to storyboard your next multi-media learning project, Chicken People may give you a few good ideas.
  3. You’re a Font nerd. Don’t deny it; just admit it. The typography work in this documentary is delicious – some grade A font-porn.
  4. There’s a beautiful, minimalist approach to text-based instruction in the documentary that really follows the “show-don’t-tell” philosophy. The first 1/2 of the documentary spends a good bit of time educating the viewer on some key terms and concepts in chicken breed standards. The visuals they use offer gorgeous and inspirational examples of animated text/graphics over visual stills and, at other times, just animated text/graphics.Check out this photo for an example, though the animated version of it in the documentary is better.

Did you watch it? What were your thoughts on the movie? Send me your thoughts via the comments section.




  1. Unfortunately the CMT version is not available from my location. However I did watch the trailer on Youtube. I like the points you raise above and in particular show-don’t-tell philosophy. Part of my work is supporting staff using a LMS for teaching online. Mostly we resort to telling academics the ‘solution’ to their problem. However we are continually asked for exemplars but do not have an efficient method of collecting great examples like this. Your blog has me thinking of some solutions for this.


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