In Review… Herman Miller’s Cosm

There are office chairs. And then there are Herman Miller office chairs. In between the two lies a chasm of design excellence and engineering superiority that only a handful of products can cross. And at the far end of this spectrum sits Herman Miller’s latest release, the Cosm. For this review, to ensure that our viewpoint wouldn’t be terribly biased (for we were clearly in love), we invited designers Aleksandra Nastic of Woods Bagot, and Salwa Najafi from Gensler, to try it for themselves and give us their unfiltered opinion.


Ever since Salone Del Mobile 2018, where we first laid eyes on the Cosm, we were waiting to get our hands on it for a review. And we finally got our chance, so we invited Salwa Najafi from Gensler and Aleksandra Nastic from Woods Bagot to weigh in with us. We collected at the Herman Miller offices in Dubai Marina, all poised and ready for the big reveal and test. Carl Burkitt, Market Manager for UAE & Oman, walked us through the chair’s inspiration, development story and myriad features.

Designed by Berlin based Studio 7.5, Cosm is a first for Herman Miller in more ways than one. Besides being the brand’s first task chair with an automatic tilt, it also sports a suspension armrest, which we believe is an industry first. Leave it to the makers of America’s (and possibly the world’s?) best selling office chair to produce another marvel.

The Review Crew

Above from left: Carl Burkitt, Herman Miller Marketing Manager for UAE & Oman, Aleksandra Nastic, Lead Designer at Woods Bagot, and Salwa Najafi, Interior Designer at Gensler

First Impression

The look of the chair follows Herman Miller’s mesh dominant aesthetic, with a stunning exoskeletal form that immediately grabs your attention. But it’s one piece design and salient aesthetics aren’t the only aspect that set it apart. As Carl puts it, “there’s a hidden intelligence that you don’t see, but it makes all the difference”.

The chair has been over a decade in the making, and one of its key features is the ability to accommodate individual users automatically without the need for manual adjustment. While this is not a new offering, the way it is done in the Cosm is a testament to the brains and the talent hard at work for all those years. Before receiving its official name, Cosm was codenamed Flying Carpet because the aim of the project was to develop a chair that captured a feeling of weightlessness, similar to when you are flying. When we sat on it, we immediately experienced this, thanks to the Auto-Harmonic Tilt™, intercept suspension, and flexible framework that work together to do this.

Even more impressive is how its form follows function. A departure from separate seat and back units, Cosm’s continuous form of suspension tailors to each individual user’s spine and stays in constant contact, providing total spinal support.

What truly had us hooked about the look was the dipped-in colour aesthetic, a design element that immediately sets the chair apart from the milieu. The consistency in colour tone across materials and parts gives a sense of consolidation. Designed and curated by Laura Guido-Clark, Herman Miller’s Creative Director of Materials Innovation, the three colours, named Canyon, Glacier, and Nightfall (a red, ice blue and deep blue), are intended to serve as ‘neutrals’ in the workspace.

Human-Centered Design

“Herman Miller is a human-centered company first,” says Carl. This becomes obvious as he demos the Cosm’s features.

Cosm employs passive ergonomics and addresses an issue that has existed since the birth of task chairs – the need to adjust tension without having to lift one’s legs off the floor. As was explained to us, lifting your legs in this manner creates a series of movements in the legs and spine which, over time, can lead to a host of problems, mostly related to lower body pain. Herman Miller’s patented recline and tilt system has fixed this.

The Leaf Arms

These spectacular arms are an incredibly unique element of the chair. The material used in the Leaf Arm cradles the elbow, cushioning the nerves at all times, even in the oddest of positions. These arms are optional though, for the chair is also available with fixed or height adjustable arms, or simply none at all.

Salwa: One doesn’t need to sit on a Cosm to appreciate it. It has that admirable quality that clearly says it was inspired by something great. Products like Cosm have the power to add imagination in a room. Beyond the practical need of a comfortable chair, the gentle curves and striking dip-in colours bring a new design palate to the world of task chairs. The Leaf Arms are definitely my favourite feature though!

Aleksandra: I like its monochromatic element – it is both powerful and bold. I’ve always liked monochromatic interiors, mixing texture and patterns in the same colouration. This approach infuses drama and dimension to a space, creating a beautiful story.

Invisible Intelligence

Studio 7.5 gives a perfect analogy to describe Cosm’s Auto-Harmonic Tilt™: “A tilt is to a chair what transmission is to a car, and like transmissions, some are manual while others, such as the Cosm’s, are automatic.”

A ‘gearbox’ below the seat houses a complex, finely tuned mechanism that accounts for the sitter’s vertical force, and automatically adjusts the tension to support any weight or posture, whether relaxed or focused. The entire system has been designed and assembled through a meticulous process of prototyping hand sculpted and 3D printed parts that were created just for the new chair. The Auto-Harmonic Tilt™ is what goes on ‘under the hood’, but the intelligence doesn’t stop there. The ergonomic support is extended to its new Intercept™ fabric, a continuous suspension material that forms to each user’s shape. The brilliance is evident when the material remains firm even after months or years of use (it certainly doesn’t sag like standard upholstery). The fabric joins hands with the tilt mechanism to displace the vertical force equally in all directions, retaining its firmness while simultaneously providing comfort. Moreover, its breathable and continuous form covers the gap between the seat and back for dynamic spinal support.

Cosm’s seat depth is designed to accommodate people from the fifth to the 95th percentile – an incredible feat for a task chair. In other words, it caters to users of nearly all body types, again extending the Herman Miller human-centered design philosophy. Cosm’s value lies in the fact that this large range of user fit is available across all its variations, no matter what the specification or finish.

Above: Ruggero Ottogalli, Herman Miller Sales Director for Lower Gulf & North Africa, demonstrates the many strengths of the Intercept™ fabric, including its ability to clean easily

Salwa: Cosm’s best feature is its simplicity. The Auto-Harmonic Tilt and suspension that are embedded within that seamless thin frame really highlight form and curvature. The material adds to the weightless aesthetic. After a week of use, I also find the material highly practical as in the past, I have experienced issues with cleaning the fabric of task chairs.

Aleksandra: It is very practical and simple to use. Task chairs generally have knobs, levers and buttons in place to control different settings in the chair, which is often a fairly complicated process. I love how the Cosm does away with all that and makes it as effortless as possible.

The Range

In order to make it adaptable to the widest range of settings possible, the Cosm is available in three height options. A low back that encourages casual conversation, and is possibly the most versatile in terms of application. A mid back that provides the necessary shoulder support when needed. And the popular high back, that is the total package, allowing users to relax and leave it to the chair to do the heavy lifting.

Salwa: The chair’s ability to mold to every user is definitely a prominent and positive feature. But being an Aeron user, I prefer the option to customise and maximise my comfort. However, I see the Cosm as ideal for hot desking!

Aleksandra: Cosm is comfort in motion. When I first tried it out, I instantly felt that comfort. After a few minutes you easily forget that you are sitting on the chair. It allows you to move while providing total support for your posture at the same time.

Final Thoughts

The Cosm pushes the boundaries of what a task chair is capable of, and we believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that it will raise the bar for seating design and function. The features, functionality, and new age design are definitely something to invest in.

However, in the current market, the price of the chair could prove to be a hurdle for some clients who would prefer a low cost option – one that may not be as amazing in form and function as the Cosm, but still did the job well. Another thing we would like to see are more colour options. While the current range is stunning, it is limited.

Having said that, for us, it was nevertheless love at first sight. Herman Miller is betting big on Cosm – it is a chair made for everyone to work anywhere, be it your office or your home – and we think they will win big.

Salwa: It’s an expensive chair, but it’s definitely worth the investment. Whether workplace or home office, the Cosm is an aesthetically pleasing product that could complement several settings. Plus, it’s such a standout piece!

Aleksandra: It is definitely expensive for a task chair, but what it offers is worth it. The high quality will pay off in the long run, as it is an investment in your health, comfort and productivity. Not only that, the Cosm chair can easily find its place, not just in typical collaborative spaces, but even in a nice residential study corner in your home.

Meet Cosm: The Self Adjusting Chair

Related Articles