Frog's ECOtality Blink electric vehicle charger.

Doreen Lorenzo: Clients Don’t Deserve Surprises

According to advertising maven David Ogilvy, “Great hospitals do two things. They look after patients, and they teach young doctors. We look after clients, and we teach young advertising people.” It’s an apt comparison. Like doctors, creatives are regularly called upon to educate their clients, and a good bedside manner is crucial.

Client relationships are the bedrock of innovation at Frog Design, a global innovation firm founded in 1969. To name just a few of Frog’s accomplishments: they partnered with Apple to create the revolutionary Apple IIc in 1982; they designed the highest grossing e-commerce site of its time,, in 2000; and, more recently, they created the popular Roku Netflix video player.So how do they do it? We sat down with president Doreen Lorenzo for a conversation about how Frog “looks after clients” and “teaches young designers” – and how both of these elements play into the company’s remarkable ability to create break-through products.

Different clients make decisions in different ways – some can make snap decisions, some need to sleep on it. How do you deal with that when you’re trying to sell in an idea?

I don’t think clients deserve surprises. By the time the client gets to the meeting, they should know the direction the project is going in. You’re taking them down a path, and you’ve explained what it is. At Frog, every client has a project site, and everything is on that project site, so they can access it 24/7 anywhere in the world. Because we know everybody is global and moves around a lot.

We’re always giving them up-to-date information. We have a mantra here that you can’t over-communicate to a client. There’s never too much information that you can give a client. It’s important that you give them the good and the bad, keeping them abreast of whatever is going on.Innovation is really tough on the client. They have committed to doing something that’s unique and different. At some point, there’s that sinking feeling in their stomach, like “Oh my god, did I make the right choice?” And our job is to make them feel confident that they have done that – to take them down this path where they can feel really good about these decisions. And there’s nothing like constant communication to help them through that.

We have a mantra that you can’t over-communicate to a client.

How do you prepare your designers to pitch clients?

Internally, we have lots of training that goes on. We do pitch classes. We talk about good presentations, and bad presentations, and what works, and storytelling. We take our teams through what that means.

You mentioned storytelling. What are the other things you emphasize?

It’s got to be good storytelling, great visuals, and consistency. The ability to have an opinion. I believe that nobody should go to a meeting without an opinion. You don’t go to a meeting to be a decoration. You go to a meeting to have an opinion, to have a point of view, and to talk that through. That’s what our clients are paying us for.

A lot of our business is with CMOs, with CEOs, with CFOs. Because, usually if you’re doing something new, it costs money for a client. So you have to have the ability to answer questions under fire. To be able to speak through, and be articulate, and be confident that this is the right decision.

I believe that nobody should go to a meeting without an opinion.

What’s your thinking on the value of educating clients?

You only have to educate a good client for a short amount of time. Because, once you educate them, there’s this trust factor that happens between you and the client. So you might educate them the first couple of projects, but the third, fourth, fifth project they’re listening to you. And you’re coming up with ideas – because you know them, and you know what’s good for them – and they’re listening to you. That’s where the real magic happens.
Think about it like this: The client comes to you, and usually they come to you because they have an issue to solve. So our job in the first project is to help them solve that issue. And in a very polite fashion, you do a great job. Where the magic happens is as you build that relationship with them.Because you’ve educated them, and they understand you, and you understand them, you can have a real dialogue with the client. And that’s where the excitement is. I think some of our best projects are born out of that.

Can you share some tips for young designers?

I think one of them is be curious. Don’t ever be afraid to take a risk. Learn how to communicate, learn how to have an opinion. I think, with young designers, they have to learn that an opinion is not necessarily a criticism. Because that’s something that you can learn from. If you listen to what people are saying, and you really understand how that applies to making something better, that’s how you grow as a designer.

What Do You Think?

Have you found that the best work comes out of the best client relationships?

What are your tips for cultivating great clients?

More insights on: Clients, Innovation, Interviews

Jocelyn K. Glei

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A writer and the founding editor of 99U, Jocelyn K. Glei is obsessed with understanding how work gives our lives meaning. She has authored three books about work, creativity, and business, including the Amazon bestsellers Manage Your Day-to-Day and Make Your Mark. Follow her @jkglei.
load comments (13)
  • Austin

    Very nice article

  • Spike Bachman

    Clients don’t deserve (the bad kind of) surprises. They do deserve to be surprised by original and logically derived pioneering solutions.

  • Bhaskar Vulapalli

    This is very true and applicable, not just for designers but all professional services folks. cannot agree more on the essence of building magic through ensuring that what client needs (not what they say they want) gets delivered to the perfection and gets communicated exactly the same way.

  • GraphicDesignBoss

    If only I had this kind of intentional training when I was a younger graphic designer learning the art and science of client management.

    20 years later on and I’ve learnt by experience – good and bad. I blogged about what my worst client taught me “4 Strategies I Use To Help Me Deal With A Nightmare Client”

  • Ben Nash

    What platforms do frog and other firms use to deliver such project sites?

  • Martin Sandström

    Some great insights here. Communication is pretty much everything, and the ability to put yourself in the receiver’s position so you know what to communciate.

  • Derek Bonney

    Great article. Especially love the concept of “having an opinion”. In too many meetings the importance of size outweighs smarts.

  • Nickolaus Casares

    I love it. Listening. We could solve half the world’s problems if we could all get good at this one thing. Nice article.

  • Bruno

    Amazing interview. Short, but very enlighting…

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    Very interesting information! Thank you!

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  • Brad Roderick

    Great comment about all meeting participants coming with an idea vs. being decoration. Better to have “participants” than “attendees”.

  • Esther Coronel de Iberkleid

    I totally agree with this article. There must be congruence in the
    relation with a client as well as understanding to be able to generate
    the trust the client needs and wants. This article shows me the
    difference and clear road to follow regarding who to work with and what
    to offer that many times is very unclear in the global market. We all need to feel safe and secure in life and in business as well. One is a reflection of the other one. Thank you very much Jocelyn K. Glei.

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