This started as a piece of Interplay corporate lore. It was well known that producers (a game industry position, roughly equivalent to PMs) had to make a change to everything that was done. The assumption was that subconsciously they felt that if they didn’t, they weren’t adding value.
The artist working on the queen animations for Battle Chess was aware of this tendency, and came up with an innovative solution. He did the animations for the queen the way that he felt would be best, with one addition: he gave the queen a pet duck. He animated this duck through all of the queen’s animations, had it flapping around the corners. He also took great care to make sure that it never overlapped the “actual” animation.
Eventually, it came time for the producer to review the animation set for the queen. The producer sat down and watched all of the animations. When they were done, he turned to the artist and said, “that looks great. Just one thing – get rid of the duck.”
One of the downsides of web design and development is that the results are so easy to understand for an outsider, that often people think they are qualified to participate in the discussion, even when it’s rather technical. Suggestions, and even demands, are often made without knowing best practices or understanding the basic principles of web design, usability, color coordination, etc. Arguing against such suggestions (and especially demands) is usually counter-productive. The time waste is horrendous. So, “a duck” is a usually a good solution. It comes in all shapes and forms – an ugly banner for marketing, a few typos for the language purists, ultra small font or an insufficient contrast color combination for the design-savvy, and so on. It’s different every time and it heavily depends on who is it built to defend from. I just didn’t know it was called ” a duck”.