This app explores 120 years’ worth of GE’s annual reports, spanning 1892–2011. In addition to creating a reference for this enormous collection of documents, the visualization shows how certain keywords were used over time, plotting the emergence and disappearance of themes over more than a century.
The opening layout depicts all 5,480 pages of reports at a glance. The 1892 report, just 18 pages long, is seen on the left, while the 2011 report weighs in at 146 pages on the right. (With the exception of the front and back covers, we show “spreads” or pairs of pages together, just how you’d read them in the originals.)
Tapping one of the terms in the lower left of the screen highlights relevant mentions of that term across all pages. Tapping one of the highlighted pages zooms into that year’s report, showing all of its page spreads and allowing you to scroll up or down the list. Tapping a particular spread shows it in full, readable resolution (as long as you have an Internet connection).
In addition to changes in terminology, the app high- lights design trends, since annual reports are a kind of bellwether of graphic design. Significant shifts in typography, color, and image styling occur as the years progress. When viewing a cover, you can also move left or right to see each year’s cover, one after another.
The collection reveals a fascinating history of not only GE as a company, but the country as a whole. The reports directly address national and world events—economic depressions, world wars, the space race, energy crises—and the challenges they brought to the company, its investors, and its consumers. Images of people at work and at home also provide glimpses into everyday life throughout the decades.