The Versatile Duck

Let’s talk about the versatile duck. There’s something for everyone when it comes to duck metaphors in product design teams.

Diversion ducks

You can give a diversion duck to clients or managers so they can tell you to “just remove the duck”. Worker bees have been using this tactic to avoid meddling managers since the days of Battle Chess.

Wild ducks

IBM’s wild ducks are people that are uncompromising in their visions, challenge conventional wisdom, introduce transformative ideas, and even inspire others to fly to new heights with them. “You can make wild ducks tame, but you can never make tame ducks wild again.” Watch IBM’s Centennial Film: Wild Ducks—Celebrating 100 years of Visionary Clients.

Stanford duck syndrome

“Stanford duck syndrome” refers to the effortless appearance of a duck—or a student—that swiftly, deftly makes its way without a care. All the while, under the surface they’re working vigorously to stay afloat. For some this is a symptom of pressure to succeed, and to do so coolly. For others, it’s a marketing strategy. Or, in the new duck metaphor, a lesson to prepare for turbulent waters, and move ahead at the pace you desire.

The duck test

The duck test: “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.” This is a form of abductive reasoning, which lets you form a theory about a possible cause for an observation. The duck test lets you identify an unidentified subject through its typical characteristics.

Rubber duck debugging

Duck debugging is the process of speaking to a rubber duck rather than approaching another person to talk through a problem. The process of talking about it out loud reveals the solution without actually gaining any new information.

Ducks and decorated sheds

An evolution of the form follows function argument, the ducks vs decorated sheds debate was inspired by the Big Duck (a building shaped like a duck for selling ducks). This debate compares buildings that are what they are with buildings that are sheds decorated by ornamentation (without which they would be indistinguishable from other sheds). At one extreme, a duck might be an absurd embodiment of an idea that no longer reflects sensible usage. At the other, a duck might be an idea’s truest representation. A decorated shed might be the user friendly option that is then enhanced by whatever degree of ornamentation is desired. A shed might be the only optimal form—bland and dull—with no room for product differentiation.

Duck idioms

Anyway, if you’re a clever duck, if you can get your ducks all in a row, if you’re an ugly duckling, if you can avoid being pecked to death by ducks and let it all roll off you like water off a duck’s back, if you’re an odd duck or even a sitting duck, you’ll find a versatile duck metaphor. As easily as a duck takes to water. (Too much?)