On tonight's Season 6 premiere (9PM ET on HGTV), you'll notice a few show shake-ups -- including a move to Monday nights -- before meeting a new crop of 12 ultra-talented and very diverse designers, including a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader/breast cancer survivor and a five-time Emmy-winning New York TV news reporter.
The judging panel will look the same -- HGTV mainstays Genevieve Gorder, Candice Olson and Vern Yip are back -- but 'Design Star' has a brand new host and a weekly design mentor who happens to have a very familiar face. Tanika Ray ('HGTV'd') takes over hosting duties, while David Bromstad, the very first 'Design Star' winner, returns to mentor the current crop of contestants.
Below, judges Gorder, Olson and Yip share five more things to know about the new season.
1. Concrete Jungle where dreams are made of ...
"This year we're back in New York, which I love," Yip tells AOL TV. "The designers this year really, really came with design credibility and credentials. They were just pushing themselves to be super creative with what they brought to the table. I loved that. This year we really allowed them to showcase what they're capable of doing."
2. The person you think will win ... doesn't.
"You always have your favorites from the get-go, so you might think, 'Oh that person is going to win,'" Olson says. "No. It's a race, it really is. The person that wins, the growth and battle and emotions ... it was ... the stakes are high. I worked 15 years in my business before I got my own show and these people get it in 10 weeks. I feel for them, but not that much! It was a real surprise, but this season is so fantastic. It is so entertaining, there's so much talent, there's tragedy -- it's pretty phenomenal."
3. The White Box is back.
"I'm always a white box guy," Yip says. "I love the white box because it's their opportunity to sort of let it go. Take function out of it and show us your personality! This year they really, really did that. It was really tough this year because in past seasons it's pretty obvious to the viewers that there are two or three people who really pull ahead in white box and this year I would say easily two-thirds turned in amazing white box results."
4. Guest Judges! And plenty of 'em.
On deck as guest judges this season: Bob and Courtney Novogratz, Dina Manzo, Nate Berkus, Thom Filicia, Kathy Ireland and the one and only Paula Deen, one of Yip's favorites. "[She] Cracked. Me. Up," he says. Gorder agrees. "She has no filters. She was the best. The most hilarious and emotional, loving ..."
"[Deen] was a guest judge on our kitchen challenges and, no kidding, I think she actually lifted the butter dishes to see if there was butter in there," Yip spills. "The guest judges this year really bring an interesting dimension to it because they give a different perspective to the situation. It was really good to have them there."
5. This is the best season. Really. The judges promise.
"Every year we're like, 'This is the best season!' When things start to click and wheels start to move, they're synchronized and it's humming and it feels good -- this is that year of 'Design Star,'" Gorder says. "The right production crew and the cast is lightyears above what we had previously, which I'm really excited about. As you see, they all become our coworkers, so they better be good enough or you help them to be good enough. It's the most emotional ... you root for everybody."
It's Yip's favorite, too. "It's by far my favorite season of 'Design Star.' I know that you probably expect me to say that every year." Yes, Verne, yes we do. "I love every year, but it's by far my favorite." So he loves all his children? "Yeah, it's not a Sophie's Choice situation!"
'HGTV Design Star' premieres Mon., July 11 at 9PM ET on HGTV.
Follow Jean on Twitter @hijean