This cross-platform project explores 120 years’ worth of GE 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 during the lifespan of an American company.

The piece reveals a fascinating history of not only GE as a company, but also 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 customers. Accompanying images serve as visual commentary on various aspects of contemporary society and culture, from fashion trends to gender roles. Read more about the other curiosities we found in the annual reports.


Originally developed as a large-scale interactive touchscreen for the lobby of GE’s headquarters in Fairfield, Connecticut, and then as a web app for a wider audience, GE Annual Reports was released as a free iPad app in September 2012. The iPad app lets users interact with all 5500 pages of reports; fluid navigation between page spreads and different years encourages exploration beyond the keywords. Zooming allows for easier reading and viewing images in crisp detail.

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Founded in 2010 by Ben Fry, Fathom Information Design works with clients to understand complex data through interactive tools and software for mobile devices, the web, and large format installations. Out of its studio in Boston, Fathom partners with Fortune 500s and non-profit organizations across sectors, including health care, education, financial services, media, technology, and consumer products.

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