By Mecca Ray-Rouse

Presentation Design Group’s founders, Tommy Griffin and Michael Whitenack met in graduate school at the University of Oregon, and as Masters of Fine Art they enjoyed 20-year careers at the University’s Museum of Art. As friends, they collaborated on art installations and interpretive exhibits before they incorporated PDG in 1996. Donor recognition was a natural evolution of their storytelling art, and what they created was very different from the bronze and wooden plaques that were the standard at the time. This novel approach was enthusiastically received by the philanthropic industry and is now a specialized business channel in which PDG remains the leader.

In 2010, Tommy and Michael transitioned ownership to their children Claire Burns, Morgan Griffin, and Colby Whitenack, and employee Andrew Pickering, all of whom had already been heavily involved at PDG. The four have grown together into a deeply committed and complimentary partnership leading a family of more than 20 full-time employees.

Most of PDG’s installations are spread across the continent, but Pickering says, “it’s always special to us when we are working in our own community.” Their employee family is especially proud of their foundational ties to the UO, and many are official Duck alumni. PDG’s creativity is seen throughout the UO campus in museums, recognition displays, athletic exhibits, and information kiosks. “We’ve been honored to be the university’s ally for more than 20 years,” Pickering says.

PDG also serves healthcare organizations. The centerpiece at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio merges story and architecture. In collaboration with the hospital’s architect and interior designer, they embedded communication within the massive sculptural wall that spans two stories of the building. The installation was featured on the cover of Healthcare Design Magazine in 2017.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, PDG fulfilled two major installations within the city’s new park, Gathering Place. The George Kaiser Family Foundation funded the construction of a massive space filled with gardens, playgrounds, skate parks, and multipurpose buildings. “No expense was spared, and every design detail was thoughtfully enacted, yet this amazing facility is absolutely free to the public,” Pickering says. “The goal was to re-engage a lagging community by giving its people a gathering place to be proud of, and we were grateful to add our artistry to this mission.”

Creative discovery, in Pickering’s view, comes from seeing and listening carefully. “We experience the space, its scale, language, and movement. We especially focus on the culture and mission of the client to refine and document the precise purpose of the project.” With designers, artists, and project managers all working together under the same roof, the company then begins to create something completely unique and inspiring.

At PDG, ideas and creativity never cease, and they have big plans for the future. They have created a novel software application, Giftmap, that has become an axial tool for many large fundraising shops. The expanding use of digital screens moved PDG to build a proprietary application to curate these large arrays. Presently, PDG is developing the first application of augmented reality in donor recognition.

At their core, they hold a sense of wonder and passion to create intentionally for their client’s success “We discover and present the stories of the most interesting and driven clients in the world,” Pickering says. “It’s an honor to know the work we do will help them succeed, especially when we come to know and believe deeply in their mission.” 

Presentation Design Group