The Madonna of Excelsior

The Madonna of Excelsior

KSO, New York, New York, 2003


As with most historical novels, the design objective is to illustrate the spirit of the particular time period. The difficult part is to ensure that the cover or jacket design remains current and fresh.

The Madonna of Excelsior revolves around the time period leading up to the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa. The sheer complexity of the subject matter begged for a simple design treatment that would illustrate the central theme of the book.

The cover solution achieved the design objective by using western religious iconography as a symbol of the racial dynamics of South African culture and heritage, setting a lighter tone in what could easily have become too dark or overpowering.

Juror Notes

“Just the right place to put the title!” Lars Müller

Collections: 50 Books | 50 Covers of 2003
Discipline: Book design
Format: Book cover


Design firm
Art director
Susan Mitchell
Jacket designer
Kwasi Osei
Zakes Mda
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Trim size
6.25 x 9.25”
Book type
Literature and nonfiction