Two smaller lit mags, one local to Cambridge, have come up with brilliant original designs that distinguish them from the masses and present creative expressions of the characters of the magazines.
The first is a bi-annual magazine called Conduit. The magazine and its website have a cool edge and the current issue themed "Last Laugh: black humor in deadpan alley," has one of the best selections of poetry and art I've seen in any journal or magazine lately. The distinguishing design is simple: it's taller and thinner than all the other magazines. I especially like it because it can fit in a back pocket on walks.
The second is Tuesday: An Art Project, a local poetry and art lit mag that has done away with binding all together.
Instead it presents each poem and art print on a postcard size piece of card stock. This design emphasizes the singular nature of each piece and prevents an artificial editorial narrative constructed by the order in which the pieces are presented. By turning each piece into an individual item, the design allows readers to spread the magazine out, on their walls, in their journals, to their friends, or keep it together in its folded cardboard envelope. The design has the simple brilliance that leaves one shocked no one has thought of it before.
Both journals present innovative, and I think just plain cool, ways of getting art and literature to readers.