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On the Road: Mobile Design in Amsterdam

Brandy Porter

Editor’s note: Brian Harper, Jeff Heaton and Brandy Porter are hitting the road to teach our mobile design courses in Ukraine, the Netherlands, India and Japan. At each destination, they’ll be sending blog “postcards” with updates.

Hello from Amsterdam

Today I’m writing to you from a plane somewhere over Romania. Brian and I are headed to India for our next Microsoft design bootcamps. We just spent a week in Amsterdam, where we were able to work with the Big Nerd Ranch Europe team and deliver a three-day class covering iOS, Android and Windows 8 design principles.

Our team

The attendees ranged from local designers to government officials, all looking to better understand mobile design platforms. It was a great opportunity to teach to a smaller group, making the workshops a truly valuable and personal experience. The Amsterdam community is generally focused on iOS, but they understand the rising global importance of Android apps, and are intrigued and excited about Windows 8.

Amsterdam class

While we had to work during the day, we found a lot to do at night. Sundown didn’t occur until around 22:00, so late nights tended to sneak up on us (It’s worth mentioning that sunup was around 4:30, so early mornings also snuck up on us). We got to stay in the Big Nerd Ranch apartment while Bolot was teaching in Sweden, so we had easy access to restaurants, pubs, coffee shops and the Artis Royal Zoo. By borrowing Bolot’s bike and renting another, we had the entire city at our wheels. Some of the adventures we got into included world cuisine, the Rijks Museum of Dutch history and art, the Van Gogh Museum, harrowing bike rides, a canal tour by boat, more coffee than any reasonable person should drink, and time spent with new and fast friends.

Rijksmuseum

Meeting genuine friends has to be the most valuable memory for me. Our European Nerds—Marcel, Bolot, Siemen and Rajiv—exemplify the kind of Nerd we like at the Ranch: intelligent, hardworking and kind. Siemen let me ride on the back of his bike across town on the first day we met, going out of his way to make sure we didn’t get lost. Rajiv is getting married in Mauritius this month! Marcel and his wife, Jeanette, ran the workshops without a hitch. We all met several times at various “eten and drinken” spots, simply tweeting our latest location to the group. It’s that kinda town.

Tour

We got to hang with the Appsterdam crowd during their Wednesday night meetup at Bax, where we met expats from around the world, all with a love for building brilliant apps. One Dutch guy is living and working in Brazil now, another in San Francisco; still another, Magnus Dahl, is from Sweden originally. He is actually the technical editor of our brand new Android Programming guide! We met Marcel’s son, Klaas, co-creator of Appsterdam and New Lemurs; and Olga, who is researching how to bring the Appsterdam community aspect to Greece, a country that is a bit segregated from the dev world right now. How exciting!

Canal Tour

We saw these wonderful people a few more times over the rest of the week, and had riveting conversations in rockabilly bars, museums and even on bike rides. It really drove home this point for me: the most amazing part of Amsterdam is her people.

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