Over a year has passed since I wrote my first Koi Pond blog post. During that time, a lot has changed. Last fall, I had the opportunity to help design the website for a literary journal’s new online issue, after which I coded nearly the whole thing from scratch with only minimal previous web experience under my belt. During the process, I became hyperconscious of all the elements a good online journal needs to have in order to function smoothly. For this installment of Koi Pond, I’ve decided to focus solely on literary publications that feature at least some of their content online. At each of the links listed below, you will find magazines that are visually striking but still remain easy to navigate. Each has its own personal aesthetic and is unique in its design and execution.
Susan L. Lin
Publisher Liaison (Issue 15)
1. Box of Jars
Box of Jars truly functions as a box of mysteries. The journal’s writing and art exists within invisible containers that bear no labels. Each issue of this relatively young publication has a distinct home page, and yet they all still read as belonging to the same journal. Navigational links appear in the form of burn marks or cracked lines or unmarked photographs that react when hovered over, then disappear when clicked, ensuring that every new piece appears as a surprise against the spotless white background.
Similarly, each new issue of Octopus Magazine also takes on a completely different form from its predecessors. In this case, so much so that every issue looks and acts as a completely separate entity. More so than with other journals, the team behind this stylish poetry journal isn’t afraid to take risks and experiment with new navigational techniques, and the result is always a complex, engaging, and visually pleasing experience. I can never wait to see what they decide to do next.
Red Lightbulbs recently published their last issue, but I’m sure I’m not the only person who will miss their offbeat humor and vivid visual aesthetic. While each issue follows the same basic layout, the color palette and cover art style remain fluid and volatile. Their genre headings are always fun and playful, a nice trademark for a journal that never takes itself too seriously.
Visiting Ghost Ocean Magazine is like transporting oneself into an alternate reality dreamscape. Navigational links fade in and out of view as you visit each new page, as do the short literary pieces themselves. It’s a journal more than deserving of its name, and one of the very few that manage to make a dark background function beautifully. As an added sensory component, an audio file of the author reading his or her own work accompanies each story or poem.
Fractured West is a print journal that publishes certain selections from each of their issues online. They specialize in fiction that clocks in at fewer than 500 words and the site features a strikingly clean, geometric design. Each month, they publish a “wish list” of whimsy that they hope to find in their submissions inbox. The items on this list are vague enough to encompass many types of writing, and yet intriguing enough to serve as prompts or points of departure, should anyone be looking for extra inspiration.
BULL is a magazine devoted to publishing men’s fiction, whatever that might entail. Their logo is a typographic image of a bull constructed from a pair of a slashes and a sideways curly bracket. Their site design is bold and brazen, as are the stories they publish. Their layout features a “Choice Cuts” section, which intends to highlight great quotes that have been pulled from their submissions. Because men love meat as much as they love good literature.
Similar to the two journals before it, The Offending Adam features a very prominent, yet clean layout. The magazine publishes what it calls “new writing,” a moniker that could have an array of interpretations. What sets it apart from similar publications is the insightful, critical introduction to the writer and his work (written by one of the editors) that serves as a preface to each piece. New content is added weekly.
8. Front Porch
Front Porch has come a long way since its early days, when the writing within was displayed on a plain white background with the simple image of a rocking chair at the header. Today, through the use of vivid background photos and bright yellow logos and navigational links, the site stands out among other online journals. It utilizes a translucent text container that allows the background image to show through the published work, enhancing it instead of detracting from it.
Better: Culture & Lit is a fresh new journal that aims to deliver mixed media projects to the public in a way that only a web journal can, making full use of the online platform. Again, the crisp design echoes their editorial mission, utilizing eye-catching text and shapes that pop off the screen. The table of contents for each new issue features an author photo that cuts to a short animation of that contributor reading aloud to the camera when your cursor hovers over it. The effect is as intimate as it is interactive.
According to Sidebrow’s website, their Ghost Project seeks to investigate the otherworldly and the disembodied. The pieces in their publication read like a series of interconnected and untethered limbs; each piece hyperlinks to another piece by another writer through the seemingly random highlighted phrases of their work. Sometimes the links will even take you away from the Ghost Project and into another “project” altogether. The result is a neverending, audience-constructed narrative.
The premise of Underwater New York is a compelling one. The editors compile an ongoing list of things that have been found submerged in the various bodies of water surrounding New York. Contributors are invited to submit stories inspired by these findings. This is truly a literary publication rooted in place and location. A map on the right column of the site invites readers to navigate the maze of stories via an interactive map that pinpoints the locations where each of these objects were originally uncovered.