Thanks guys, great feedback from everyone! I've already constructed the stand over this past weekend, and I'll post some pics tonight. I went with design #2 and I believe it's very solid - no wobbling, square, and flat on the ground.
I didn't have a chance to take pics along the way, as a step-by-step journal of the DIY stand. Instead I did it as fast as I could, rather than worrying about documenting. I live in NYC, and hammering and nailing is not a good idea in your apartment (generally not allowed on the weekends).
To bisuitslayer, thanks for the tips. I don't have access to ANY tools, other than a hammer and sandpaper (not really a tool, I know!). I'm always jealous of these DIY journals since this stand would come out 10x better and quicker with the proper tools. For example, I don't have a power driver so had to use nails rather than screws. Half way through, I borrowed a power driver, but it was so weak it could not screw the screws in completely. Eventually, I just used it to drill holes, and then had to screw the wood screws in by hand. (it was terrible, believe me). I thought of the idea of conforming the front end, but gave up that idea, lest I attempt to sand for days a square piece of plywood down by 3/4 inch on each front corner.
kornplake, that's a good point. I was shocked to find out when I went to the only lumber store in Manhattan that a 2x1 is in fact not 2inches by 1inch. It is roughly as you said .75 by 1.5 or so. I went with 2x3s which are actually 1.5 by 2.5. I was unaware of this "naming" convention for wood planks and their dimensions. I got pine btw, and it cost me believe it not $68 for the wood and a small box of screws. I was a little upset when I looked at the invoice...each cut was 1.50 and the wood was about 59cents per foot.
I was severly disappointed when I worked for 1.5 days making the stand only to find that it was a very wobbly and prone to horizontal racking. The vertical strength was not a problem. I realized this would be a problem even before I began since my wood was not cut straight. Again, believe it or not, but the saw they used to cut the 2x3s was not cutting at a 90 degree angle. The cut end of each and every single board was visibly crooked, with an approximately 1/4 inch differential from one side of the cut to the other. I think this is pretty clear without having to explain why this is such a problem. Since the boards in effect stack on each other, it's imperative that the boards are actually straight and cut at 90 degree angles. So I actually sanded each cut end down to make them as straight as possible. Even then, the stand was very wobbly due to the boards not making full contact.
Then came Gorilla Glue. I've used wood glue before, but never this. I used it overnight, and it foams to 3x-4x its size. This was perfect as it filled in the areas needed in the gaps between the connections. The stand was literally solid as a rock the next day, with absolutely no racking. That saved my entire project, although of course I would suggest using straight wood and proper construction rather than a fix.
I believe those are the highlights and lowlights of my project, I'll add some pics tonight. I've definitely learned some lessons, and hopefully it'll help someone else avoid those mistakes. Your thoughts?