Bad UX Bites #1: Adobe Illustrator and its lousy rotation function

This crap makes my head rotate

If 5 or 6 UX blunders are simply too many for you to stomach, I don’t blame you. It does have something of a detrimental effect on one’s faith in humanity to ponder just how much mediocrity is out there, getting paid, being promoted to upper management.

Well, from here on out, I am going to offer you Bad UX Bites. They are smaller samplings of crappy user experience that I will publish more frequently. It’s like shitty design tapas.

The first Bad UX Bite is from — what else? — Adobe Illustrator.

If you have used the rotate function in Illustrator — the dialogue rather than the live rotation — you know how bad it sucks. Here is what the design looks like:

If you aren’t already familiar with Illustrator, you might assume that -45° means 45° counterclockwise. That would make sense because negative numbers imply backwards movement, and counterclockwise implies backwards in time. Well, you’re wrong. Negative degrees actually mean rotating clockwise.

You would have no way of knowing this without trial and error, though. See that line in the circle? It is clearly rotated 45° from something, but is it from the 3 o’clock or 6 mark? If you can math, then you know it’s 3.

That problem could have been easily avoided with a small indicator showing the center point and the amount of rotation:

Conceptual illustration. Don’t expect this common sense from Adobe.

While we’re at it, why the hell is the starting point 3 o’clock and not 12? Why do I get the feeling this was designed by people who still don’t know how to read analogue clocks?

Now, assuming you get past that nonsense and actually confirm the amount of rotation you want by clicking “OK”, don’t even think of expecting the rotation to be depicted in an animation. This is what it looks like:

Doesn’t it look like the object rotated counterclockwise? It didn’t, but the optical illusion makes you think you did something wrong, especially if you’re already turned around from using the crappy rotation dialogue. This could easily have been avoided by animating the change.


  • The rotation tool treats negative rotation values as clockwise, contrary to people’s understanding of time and space.
  • There is no indicator of the zero point in the visualization.
  • The zero point is located at 3 o’clock rather than 12.
  • Rotations are not animated, leading to potential disorientation after the transformation is complete.

Important lessons

  • Do not contradict user’s expectations or deeply ingrained conventions.
  • Use motion to illustrate change and orient the user.
  • Clearly indicate what will happen when a user performs an action.

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Bad UX Bites #1: Adobe Illustrator and its lousy rotation function was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.