Upon its release in 1994, Herman Miller's Aeron office chair was a design revelation. Some dubbed it the "Dot-Com Throne," given its popularity with early Silicon Valley executives, and it ultimately found a home the Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection. Almost 25 years later, the company introduced Cosm, the Aeron's diametric and philosophical opposite.

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Where Aeron adjusts to the user by manual adjustment, Cosm, designed by Studio 7.5 for Herman Miller, reflexively adjusts to each new sitter. This is called passive ergonomics, and most of the tastemakers in the office-design space — Steelcase, Knoll and Humanscale — have released something similar. But none solved a single, glaring design issue: how to adjust recline tension for every user, without lifting the legs ever-so-slightly in the air.

close up of a red herman miller cosm office chair
Chase Pellerin

It may sound pedantic, but this very slight displacement creates a nerve pinch in the legs that, in turn, tenses the lower back and core, spawning a host of other problems. The long-term ripple effect can be immense — lower back pain, neck pain, headaches, numbness in the lower body and on and on. Cosm's patented recline system fixed this.

Called Auto-Harmonic Tilt, the innovation takes your vertical force into account by locking the recline fulcrum to a specific spot on its springs when you lean back. By being able to dynamically alter this fulcrum to every person, the chair positions itself to do what all passive ergonomic chairs strive for: offer a level of comfort and body-positive seating for every potential user.

According to Herman Miller, solving the leg-raising problem was the primary reason it hadn't already released an auto-adjusting office chair. It's also why it thinks Cosm's design, a decade in the making, is more than just another office chair.

  • Designer: Studio 7.5
  • Color Options: White, red, dark gray, dark blue, light gray
  • Size Options: Low-back, mid-back, full-back

    Price $895+

    This story is part of the GP100, Gear Patrol's annual index of the 100 best products of the year. To see the full list of products or read this story in print, check out
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