College of the Atlantic

Bar Harbor, ME  •  coa.edu

Truth be told, we got excited way too early. Early on in this professional courtship, we felt a special bond with this tiny school... after all, they do study whales. But beyond the curriculum, we identified with a small, hardworking team that communicates on behalf of a singular, special place.

Everyone who enrolls at COA studies Human Ecology, but each student chooses a path of interest: ranging from the natural sciences to the arts. In our on-campus meetings, several people were quick to suggest a more organic way of finding content - what became known as “the universe of tags”.

Using the LiveWhale CMS, we defined content types that would be ideal for our tag universe. Some of these were standard for colleges: faculty, staff, and student profiles; alumni outcome stories, news, and events. We added a few more that usually scare web committees: the course catalog (synced from a CAMS database), and student work. Rounding out our tagged content: maps, local resources, native plants and animals.

When describing their design needs, we’ve never had clients use phrases like “profound patience”, “intentional misdirection”, and “it shouldn’t have all the answers”. The site also needed to be intrinsically, purely, in and of Bar Harbor - COA’s best-fit prospective students cannot always afford to make the trip to seaside Maine.

The final design contains elements that stretched us, scared us, and delighted us.

  • A daily calendar on the homepage integrates live courses, community events, the dining menu, and the tides.
  • The homepage feature shifts at sunrise and again at sunset—local time.
  • In the spirit of “shopping local”, our web fonts are made in Maine.
  • Photography comes from students and staff - as well as making use of their photo archive to adorn the Course pages.
  • Students can edit their own profiles, and left to their own devices and the right prompts, they’re far better at describing COA than we ever could be.

The web team entered the newly-launched site in the regional CASE awards, and was disappointed to receive a terse email announcing that it had not won an award. Turns out, the site got bumped to the national level, where it received glowing reviews and the CASE Gold Circle of Excellence.

Our contract with COA continues today: we’re entering a phase of print design and admissions strategy to help them look deeper at their data, and reach the handful of students who are as truly unique as they are.


The approach to Bar Harbor's airport is fine. Totally normal and fine! Good times for good flyers.

Web Team Potluck - Tonya and Jason cover the essentials while Sean from COA dresses the greens.


No matter where you are in the process:
RFP, pre-RFP, ASAP, or WTF -
we’re happy to talk.

(510) 808-4028, or say hello@whitewhale.net