Designing with a Motor Running

Building electric duck designs

Maggie Campbell
3 min readMay 29, 2019

I asked myself “how do I stop being so scared?” That’s it. Sitting at my desk between my “emotion a day” calendar and “complaining is not a strategy” poster, chewing on my fingernail, watching my cursor blinking at me from a blank page, I pivoted over to Medium to type “what am I afraid of?”

I have no excuse for fear. I have deep talents for writing, learning, studying, analyzing, creating, and getting to the heart of any problem before me. I have intentionally grown these talents in my career and life.

I don’t settle. I don’t run from a challenge. I always take the path with the highest calculated return. I have nothing to fear.

However, fear gripped me from an early age that I wasn’t good enough, I could never achieve enough, and perfection could keep me safe from adversity. All that perfection couldn’t prevent me from hyperventilating and passing out on an airplane coming from a client visit that fateful April day. So that’s what a panic attack feels like.

Don’t worry. This isn’t a story about how I overcame my panic disorder, and in the words of my favorite Monty Python movie: “I got better.” Instead, this is a story about the overabundant joy that can come out of recovery. As I learned to stop the racing thoughts of so scared and what-do-I-do-what-do-I-do-what-do-I-do, I learned to ask myself what would I be doing right now if I wasn’t ruminating — if I wasn’t scared?

Usually, the answer is “I’d be writing a requirements document for this new feature” or “I’d be contacting my next guest for my videos” or “I’d be calling this client for user feedback on a feature.” I was a magna cum laude student, and yet the panic obstacles were my primary procrastination technique.

Last year, I was training a new employee in user research and understanding requirements. When we finished the phone call with the client, the new guy came into my office. He says, “you make it look so easy.”

I told him, “it’s like ducks on a pond, right? Make it look tranquil, but underneath paddle like hell.”

Look at those tranquil ducks!

From there, our conversation devolved into “well, Maggie, your ‘paddling like hell’ must be some kind of motorboat engine underneath.” *suckup

That’s how electric duck designs was born.

My areas of design are practical websites and effortless applications. I bring finesse, tranquility, and a motoring work ethic to any project with my signature enthusiasm. I have applied my experiences toward government agencies, museum exhibits, or promoting game design engines.

And the Electric Duck? Well, he’s been my companion these past years I’ve been launching my own design business. I’ve easily drawn my Electric Duck logo about five thousand times, so I have at least five thousand more times to draw him before I feel like I’ve got it.

We get a lot done, the electric duck and I, when I’m able to ask myself “what would I be doing right now if I didn’t feel fear?” The most common answer leads me back to software design and writing about design. It doesn’t feel like work when you love motoring through it.

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Maggie Campbell

Experience designer, content curator, confidence builder, joy cultivator, dog + tiny human mom, chronic over-thinker, deficit levels of attention